Focus (2)

Soualiga Newsday Focus (2621)

Another 5,151 coronavirus cases, slight drop in hospital numbers

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Another 5,151 coronavirus cases were reported by the public health agency RIVM on Friday, passing the 5,000 mark for the second day running.

The figure was the highest for a single day since January 23 and 9% higher than last Friday. The average for the last seven days increased to 4,547, its highest level for four weeks.

Another 205 people were admitted to hospital, but the total number of patients fell by 23 to 1,864, of whom 525 are being treated in intensive care. The proportion of all tests that were positive was 9.4%, continuing the declining trend since the beginning of February.

Another 65 deaths were reported on Friday, while the average figure for the last seven days is 52, compared to 60 a week ago. Infections are continuing to fall in nursing homes, with 425 facilities reporting at least one case in the last two weeks, 12 fewer than on Thursday and a decline of 53 since last Friday.

The total number of vaccination doses administered to date is 1,236,192, the RIVM said.



Teenagers, 17, arrested for dumping their baby in underground waste container

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Amsterdam police have identified and arrested the teenage parents of the baby found in a yellow supermarket plastic bag and dumped in an underground waste container last week.

The parents are both aged 17 and were arrested on Wednesday, the public prosecution department said in a short statement. They have admitted being the baby’s parents.

The mother of the girl was also arrested, and her role is being investigated. The teenagers appeared in court on Friday and were released under licence. Both are suspected of attempted murder.

The baby girl, now said to be a newborn, has left hospital and is being cared for by foster parents. The baby was rescued from the container in the district of Zuidoost after a local woman heard it cry when she was depositing her own rubbish in the bin.

She alerted the authorities who managed to get the baby out.



Rotterdam police officers given formal warning for racist Whatsapp group

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Five Rotterdam police offers who were members of a racist Whatsapp group have been given formal written warnings, police chief Fred Westerbeke said on Thursday.

An inquiry into the group began last July after the NRC reported that police officers were using racist and derogatory terms to describe people who have an ethnic minority background.

The chat group had been closed down in 2019 following complaints from other officers. The police officers were commenting on a video which showed a white teenager being beaten up by a number of black teens in the Rotterdam district of Spijkenisse.

They described the perpetrators as ‘cancer people and c*** Africans’ who they would like to ‘shoot’, the NRC said. Westerbeke said he had been shocked by the comments.

‘This issue is high on the agenda for the coming years,’ he said. An important part making change, he said, is becoming a ‘more diverse team, with talents from different backgrounds, so that we better reflect the make-up of our society.’

In 2019, a former team leader in The Hague’s police force said the city’s division is riddled with racism and discrimination. Fatima Aboulouafa, who is of Moroccan origin, said some officers in the city described themselves as ‘Marokkanenverdelgers’ (‘eradicators of Moroccans’) and cited instances of officers using excessive violence which they allegedly lied about in witness statements.

A formal written warning is the lightest punishment that can be handed down, RTL Nieuws reported.



MPs, ministers and agencies ‘forget the human element’ in policy

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Parliament, ministries and government agencies have often lost sight of the human element when drawing up and enacting policy, a parliamentary commission said on Thursday.

In addition, there is a lack of trust, and interest in what other departments are doing, the commission said in a new report, which has been almost a year in the making. Both parliament and agencies, such as the benefit payments unit UWV and tax office, need to work more closely together to ensure more people don’t get lost in the system, the report said.

For years, the report said, little has been done to monitor how policy is being implemented or to look at the actual impact of new laws and regulations. And MPs have not carried out their role as monitors of government agencies properly either, the report said.

The report estimates 20% of the population have difficulty finding their way around the maze of rules, across a variety of policy areas. ‘A civil servant is there to serve the public, not the minister,’ said commission chairman and MP Andre Bosman.

‘The person [asking questions] at the front desk is more important than the politicians in The Hague.’ In some cases, the rules are so complicated that professionals in the sector have difficulty working out what they mean, the report said.

One example of this, the report said, is the tax-free allowance which every taxpayer has but which is calculated in a variety of different ways. Formally addressing the commission’s findings will be up to the next cabinet.

In the meantime, ‘MPs can set a good example by accepting that some things are going wrong,’ Bosman said. ‘They can learn from it, instead of blaming the minister.’



Sharp rise in new coronavirus cases, officials close overcrowded Amsterdam park

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Public health institute RIVM recorded 5,048 new cases of coronavirus in the 24 hours to Thursday morning, almost 600 above the weekly average and the biggest daily increase in a month.

The number of positive tests has been rising in recent days and was up 19% in the seven days to Tuesday, prompting the RIVM to talk of a ‘third wave’. The number of hospital patients also rose overnight by 225, up 54 on Wednesday’s increase.

Of them, 29 people were admitted to intensive care, where 526 coronavirus patients are currently being treated. Amsterdam city council on Thursday afternoon closed off the city’s central Vondelpark because of the crowds flocking to take advantage of the early spring sunshine.

Earlier officials decided to lock most of the entrances to the park in an effort to improve control, but eyewitnesses in the neighbourhood told people were climbing over the fences.

They also reported a heavy police presence in the locality. The park was cleared by police on Wednesday after an impromptu party took place, and two people were arrested.



One of Germany’s most wanted men is arrested in Amsterdam

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch police have arrested a 60-year-old German national wanted for his role in a string of violent armed robberies, at a private home in a quiet residential street in the west of Amsterdam.

Judges will decide on Wednesday if Thomas Drach, who earlier served 14 years in jail for kidnapping German industrialist Jan Philipp Reemtsma, should be extradited to Germany to face charges.

Drach is currently wanted in Germany for three ‘spectacular robberies’ in 2018 and 2019, including money transports at Ikea stores in Cologne and Frankfurt. In each case the perpetrators ambushed the money transport van, escaped with a stolen car and then set it on fire nearby.

After that, they continued their escape in other cars. The suspects used cars which had been stolen in the Netherlands, leading investigators to believe there was a Dutch link.

An international warrant had been issued for his arrest. German journalists told that Drach is considered a very dangerous man and that he had disappeared from public view after his release from jail in 2013.

‘He is long suspected of having lived in the Netherlands,’ one said. Police arrested Drach after smashing in the door to the flat where he was staying at around 5am. Locals report hearing a very loud bang which woke them up.

Others report having seen police cars outside the property.



Dutch police seize record hauls of cocaine and heroin within two weeks

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Police in Hamburg and Antwerp have seized 23 tonnes of cocaine destined for the Netherlands in the past 10 days, and one person named in the documentation for both shipments has been arrested.

The haul is an ‘absolute record’, the Dutch public prosecution department said on Wednesday. The first consignment, totalling 16.1 tonnes, had been hidden in tins of wall plaster from Paraguay.

Hamburg port officials found it after a tip off from the Netherlands. The paperwork accompanying the plaster led to a 28-year-old Dutch national who, it transpired, was also involved in a second shipment of pineapple, squid, wood and mackerel from Panama to Antwerp.

Those containers were scanned on February 20 and found to contain 7.2 tonnes of cocaine.


Earlier on Wednesday it emerged police and other investigators had seized a consignment of 1.5 tonnes of heroin packed in a container of Himalayan salt which arrived at Rotterdam port from Pakistan.

The haul was made on the basis of information supplied by the National Crime Agency in Britain. In total, five people were arrested following a raid on a property in Etten-Leur two weeks ago.

The haul is the biggest single consignment of heroin ever seized in the Netherlands. No further information, including the eventual destination of the drugs, is being given in the ‘interests of the investigation’, the department said.



Coronavirus rule relaxation is risky but responsible, Rutte says

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – As expected, prime minister Mark Rutte announced four changes to the current coronavirus regulations at Tuesday evening’s press conference but said the curfew will be extended until the morning of March 15.

Secondary schools are to open again and each pupil should have at least one day’s lessons at school from March 1, Rutte said. From March 3, hairdressers and other ‘contact’ professions can start up again – apart from sex workers – and teenagers and adults up to the age of 27 can play team sports outside, but not formal competitions.

In addition, from March 3, shops can open to customers by appointment. All four measures will have a ‘socially positive impact,’ Rutte said. ‘We are entering a new and very difficult phase.

We are all getting fed up… and we are trying to keep the negative impact as small as possible.’ Government think-tanks have also warned about the impact on society, he said, and this is why we have to take a few more risks.

The relaxation of the rules, he said, is ‘not a free ticket’ and can be reversed, apart from the reopening of the schools.

Direct appeal

Rutte also addressed television viewers directly, saying that he wanted to make a ‘personal deal’ with everyone in the Netherlands. The extra risks mean that we must all keep to the basic rules even more strictly, he said.

‘Your behaviour counts,’ he said. This means wearing a mask in the supermarket, working at home and having a test even with the mildest symptoms. Some 25% of people who test positive for coronavirus still go the supermarket or take the dog out for a walk, he said. Such behaviour, he said, is ‘dangerous and potentially life-threatening’.

Old lives

‘It will still be a while before we get our old lives back,’ health minister Hugo de Jonge said. However, he said, testing and the vaccination strategy are offering the way forward.

‘By mid March, two million vaccinations will have been given and three million by the end of the month, as long as the vaccines come in, he said. ‘And we are now seeing the first cautious results as infection rates in nursing homes and among healthcare staff go down.’

Asked about reports that Astra Zeneca will only be providing half the vaccines promised in the second quarter, De Jonge said the company is extremely difficult to make a deal with and said the lack of solid delivery dates was ‘maddening’.

Work is also underway on the ‘complex’ draft legislation to anchor quarantine for new arrivals in law, De Jonge said. Currently only around 25% of people go into quarantine on arriving in the Netherlands, as they are supposed to, he said.

The legislation is likely to be completed in March. The next review of the situation will take place on March 8, when ministers will decide what should happen from March 16.



Nuremberg trials were illegitimate says Dutch far right party leader Baudet

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Thierry Baudet, leader of far-right party Forum voor Democratie, has come in for more heavy criticism after saying that the Nuremberg trials – the military tribunals in which leaders of Nazi Germany were prosecuted by the Allied forces after World War II – were illegitimate.

Speaking during a campaign rally in Gouda on Monday, Baudet was asked if politicians who supported the coronavirus rules should be put before a ‘sort of tribunal’. The FvD leader answered that he did not support the use of retroactive legal powers.

‘I consider the Nuremberg tribunal to also have been illegitimate,’ Baudet said. Although criticism of the Nuremberg process is not new, commentators described Baudet’s use of them as an example of a wrongful trial as wrong and insensitive, particularly given the accusations of anti-Semitism which have dogged the party over the past months.

‘I was speechless,’ Aron Vrieler, a researcher at the Israel information centre CIDI, told the Telegraaf. ‘In describing the Nuremberg trials as illegitimate, you are legitimising the extremism which was on trial.’

Baudet’s argument that the Nazis could have faced trial under regular national laws is wrong, Vrieler said. ‘I’m really surprised a Dutch MP would say this,’ he said. ‘The trials were a first step to show where extremism and anti-Semitism had led – the Holocaust.’


The NRC said that Baudet’s campaign for the March general election was ‘full of alternative facts’ and that he was following former US president Donald Trump’s campaign tactics.

Baudet has made no secret of his support for Trump in the past. During his campaign speeches, Baudet has said the party’s poor showing in the polls ‘can’t be’ true, has described coronavirus as a hoax and a seasonal flu, and called for a ‘civilian army’ to rise up on election day.

In Tholen, on Sunday, he even evoked Trump’s ‘space force’ by calling for the Netherlands to launch its own space programme and to land on the moon, the paper said.

Election results

He has also attempted to cast doubts about the election results. During one speech Baudet said that votes – cast on paper in the Netherlands – will be ‘digitalised and put into a computer.’

This computer will ‘probably be owned by Dominion or another well-known international company that from people’s friend George Soros is,’ he said in a sarcastic voice, ‘and then you won’t know what happens to the votes.’

Trump blamed his presidential election defeat partly on fake claims about Dominion voting computers being fiddled with.



Live baby dumped in Amsterdam underground waste container

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Amsterdam police have found a live baby dumped in an underground rubbish container in the city’s district of Zuidoost.

The baby was found around 11pm on Sunday night and released from the container by police and the fire brigade.

The child was taken to hospital for a check-up. The emergency services were alerted by a local who heard the baby crying when she was putting her own rubbish in the container, local broadcaster AT5 reported.

The child, thought by the local to be a girl, was found in a yellow supermarket bag. ‘My heart broke,’ the woman said. In 2014, a live baby girl was found abandoned in an underground rubbish container in the Amsterdam district of Nieuw West.

The baby was found after a passerby heard her crying and called the emergency services.


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