Focus (2)

Soualiga Newsday Focus (2882)

Youngsters can bring forward their second vaccination date from today

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Everyone over the age of 18 with an appointment for a second coronavirus vaccine in the second half of August can now bring that date forward, health minister Hugo de Jonge has said on Twitter.

There is sufficient capacity at vaccination centres to allow people to have their second jab earlier, De Jonge said. Everyone eligible will be send a text message by their regional health board inviting them to make a new date.

The minimum time between two Pfizer vaccines is 21 days, and for Moderna 28 days. Some 60% of Dutch adults are now fully vaccinated and the figures will be updated again on Tuesday.



Syrian girl, 11, found alone with a suitcase at Utrecht’s main station

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Utrecht police are trying to solve the mystery of an 11-year-old Syrian girl, found alone in the city’s main railway station walking around with a suitcase.

The girl was spotted by NS workers, who called in the police. Conversation was difficult because the girl spoke neither Dutch or English, but a passerby was able to step in and act as interpreter, police said in an Instagram post.

The police are now trying to establish if the girl has been in the Netherlands for some time, or if she recently arrived, news agency ANP reported.



Test for entry system is hardly used, but costs €1m a day: VK

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The much criticized ‘test for entry’ system may be virtually dormant since clubs were closed again, but the 11 companies involved are notching up €1m a day between them for providing the service, the Volkskrant reported on Friday.

Ministers ordered clubs to close and banned festivals on July 9 following the surge in coronavirus cases, with over 1,000 infections traced back to one event alone. The test for entry system is now only being used for seated events such as sports matches and last week just 68,000 tests were taken, the paper said.

In the first week of July, over 500,000 people had a fast test so they could attend an event. The 11 commercial companies which have won contracts to provide the tests are paid on the basis of capacity, not tests, even if it is not used.

They get €387 per placement, each of which can carry out 200 tests a day, plus €130 an hour in personnel costs. Last week, the companies had 1,100 placements spread across 110 locations.

Capacity cut

Pier Eringa, chairman of Stichting Open Nederland, the foundation running the testing system, told the paper that capacity has now been reduced by half. ‘But we have to keep the shop open, even if there are not many clients,’ he said.

‘That is the price we pay to be sure we have enough capacity when it is necessary. ‘There is a risk that the companies would decide to do something else,’ he said. ‘And we don’t pay the fire service per fire they put out.’


Eringa told the Volkskrant he did think the time is right to streamline the different testing trajectories into a single operation in order to be more flexible and efficient.

Currently, people with symptoms are tested by regional health boards, for example, and people who have free test so they can travel abroad are treated separately again. The government will decide on August 13 if it is possible to reopen clubs and sanction festivals.

The total bill for the project, which was initially to run until the end of August, is now put at €700m, down from an earlier estimation of €1.1bn.



Police raid ‘most professional’ crystal meth lab ever found in NL

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch police have discovered what they say is the biggest and most professional laboratory for the production of highly addictive crystal meth ever found in the Netherlands.

The lab, raided on the basis of information gleaned from an encrypted chat service, was located in two large sheds on land near the village of Nederweert in Limburg. One person, a 62-year-old Polish national, was in a house on the property at the time and arrested.

Specialist police teams are now dismantling the lab and taking samples of the chemicals, police said in a statement. That is likely to take until Sunday. Police say more arrests cannot be ruled out.

Last year, Dutch police closed down 32 meth labs, more than three times the 2019 total.



Rare moth not extinct, just hiding under cover of night

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A rare moth experts thought extinct has been spotted near Biervliet in Zeeland, 50 years after the last sighting.

Landscape preservation organisation Het Zeeuwse Landschap was sent a picture of the moth, a Dusky Sallow, on Facebook by a member of the public. ‘Two experts then went to the spot and found at least 30,’ spokesman Marcel Klootwijk told local broadcaster Omroep Zeeland.

The organisation will keep an eye on the population to see if the congregation of moths is a fluke or whether the species is here to stay. If caterpillars appear at the end of the season, it means the animals are procreating.

If that is the case it may well mean the experts were hasty to declare the Dusky Sallow extinct. ‘People were probably just not looking for them. They are nocturnal after all,’ Klootwijk said.



Elderly must conquer their virus fears and get out more, doctors say

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Isolation is becoming a bigger danger to the elderly than coronavirus, geriatric medicine specialists have warned, as many are afraid to go back to their old activities despite being fully vaccinated.

Loneliness, malnutrition, dehydration and broken bones because of falls are all on the the rise, specialists say, because many elderly still won’t leave their homes, even when the rate of infection was low some weeks ago.

‘We are seeing people who are showing the first signs of dementia who are rapidly declining and who have to go into a home,’ Arend Arends, chairman of the Dutch association of geriatricians NVKG told the AD.

‘Elderly people who don’t get enough exercise are more likely to fall and break something. I understand their fears, but isolation is becoming a bigger danger to their health than coronavirus.

It really is safe to go out and do things.’ While social distancing is still an important factor, and large-scale events are best avoided, the elderly should not get too used to an empty social calendar, geriatric specialist Karen Keijsers said.

‘Now we see more serious illness among the elderly because they have stopped doing their daily round of activities, or because they feel they have nothing left to live for,’ she told the paper.



Dutch court was wrong to hold in absentia appeals hearing

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Arnhem-Leeuwarden appeal court was wrong to hold an appeal against a shoplifting conviction in absentia, the European Court of Human Rights said on Tuesday.

The Strasbourg-based court found that the Netherlands had violated the right to a free trial of a woman, identified as X, when it held her appeals hearing while she was out of the country on business.

Her lawyer had failed to inform the court of her travel schedule. ‘While the interests cited by the appeal court were undoubtedly relevant, the Court considers that in the circumstances of the present case they were not sufficient to outweigh the applicant’s right to attend the hearing of her appeal in person,’ the European court said in its ruling.

The Dutch government had argued that the error was the fault of the woman’s lawyer and it was concerned about the trial dragging on for too long. ‘This is important because the ECHR says domestic courts need a good reason to hold a trial in absentia,’ the lawyer told DutchNews.

In the Netherlands, trials can be held without the defendant present if the prosecutor meets certain criteria, such as informing the person when the trial will be held. The woman had been previously convicted of shoplifting, which she told the court was a compulsive habit related to mental health problems.

She was sentenced to four weeks in prison and to a €5,000 fine and was concerned that the prison sentence would cause her to lose her job. She was hoping that by appearing in person, she could explain that she was undergoing treatment and such a sentence would hinder her progress.

The decision would allow her to request a new trial in the Netherlands, but according to her lawyer, she had not yet decided what she would do.



Police arrest 14-year-old for attack on girl who said ‘I am who I am’

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Police in Amstelveen have arrested a 14-year-old boy in connection with the attack on Tuesday on 14-year-old Frédérique Brink.

The girl was hit repeatedly in the face, sustaining serious injuries, when she refused to answer a group of boys who asked her if she was a boy or a girl.

‘It is not important. I am who I am and you can be whoever you want to be’, she is quoted as saying by her father. Police are treating the case as LGBTI related violence based on witness statements and are still investigating the case.

Frédérique herself has reportedly said she does not want long sentences for the boys, much less for them to become the victims of a witch hunt, her father Paul Brink told the AD.

‘All she wants is for this to lead to more awareness, for those boys and for the world,’ he told the paper.



Universities aim to operate normally from coming academic year

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch universities aim to open in the coming academic year, without social distancing and preferably without compulsory testing, current affairs show Nieuwsuur has reported.

Despite the surge in Delta variant infections, particularly among young people, universities do not plan to operate under restrictions come the autumn, Pieter Duisenberg, head of the Dutch universities association VSNU said.

‘That has to be top of the list of priorities,’ he said. ‘And we want to work out how we can make this happen.’ Ministers had asked universities to draw up two different timetables for September, one with social distancing and one without.

A month ago, universities indicated that only one scenario – being fully open – is relevant, and the surge in Delta variant cases has not changed that, Nieuwsuur said.

While Eindhoven University of Technology has worked out the likely impact of different scenarios, most have not done so because of the pressure on staff. ‘What the government wants is not possible,’ a spokesman from Tilburg University said.

Compulsory testing, which the government may require from September, would be an enormous logistical challenge, Duisenberg told the programme. ‘We are not a festival location with one entrance,’ he said.

‘Dutch campuses are made up of numerous buildings, and in some cases are scattered throughout cities.’



Panamanian ship carries massive dead whale to port of Terneuzen

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The port authorities at Terneuzen had major surprise when they spotted a 17-metre dead whale floating in the water on Tuesday.

The animal had become stuck to the bow of a Panamanian freighter after a collision at some point during the voyage to the Netherlands. The sperm whale was hauled out of the water and put on the Goese Kade dockside where it awaits further analysis by researchers from University of Utrecht and the Naturalis biodiversity centre.

‘This is definitely a first’, an astonished port worker said. The investigation will have to establish exactly what killed the animal. ‘It’s quite a big specimen,’ researcher Pepijn Kamminga told local broadcaster Omroep Zeeland.

‘The sperm whale is the second largest of the whale family and it can reach a length of 25 metres. This one is about 15 to 17 metres long.’ Kamminga has only seen pictures of the dead whale but thinks it was hit in its side.

It will difficult to tell where the collision happened, he said, because even with an animal as big as a whale, the effect on the huge freighter is nil and its presence would not be noticed.

The dissection of the animal will take place on Wednesday. Too large to fit into the Rotterdam Natuurhistorisch museum’s collection of animals which have come to a tragic end, Naturalis will be bagging the whale skull for its collection.


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