- Outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte and outgoing Minister Hugo de Jonge (Public Health) held a press conference about the corona measures on Tuesday 23 March. Rutte started his speech with less good news.”Two weeks ago, we hoped to be able to implement small easing before Easter, including the limited opening of terraces, more space for shops and a partial reopening of education. Only if the R-value would remain around 1 and the numbers in hospitals stable. Now we have to conclude that this is not the case. ”
More patients in hospitals, the R-value is above 1: figures that prevent the current measures from being abandoned, Rutte emphasizes. The measures will therefore be extended for three weeks, until 20 April. However, there is one small change: the curfew will be from 22:00 instead of 21:00.
“In concrete terms, this means that from Wednesday, 31 March, the curfew will apply from 22:00 to 4:30 in the morning. Everything else will remain the same.” Rutte said it was wise to leave the curfew for one hour because of the approaching summer time. This is done on the advice of, among others, mayors and the police, said the prime minister.
“It may prove necessary that even more measures are needed. But if the numbers are better than expected, the easing of the rules could also be reconsidered.” The prime minister was referring to the opening of the terraces and (partly) higher education.
Due to the current situation, the cabinet also sees no other choice than to extend the current travel advice until 15 May., so the rule remains: do not travel abroad. “The cabinet cannot say anything about the summer holidays. Rutte does emphasize that he has” good hope “that more will be possible.
- In the near future, the cabinet will use additional means of communication to inform the Dutch citizens about the safety and effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the Ministry of Health reported to NU.nl on Friday evening. This way, the ministry wants to prevent the Dutch from canceling their vaccination appointment with AstraZeneca.In order to reach large groups of Dutch people quickly, the national government is becoming “much more active than usual” on social media and its own websites. The spokesperson talks about blogs, videos, graphics and advertisements. Much more is put into communication around AstraZeneca than, for example, around Pfizer or Moderna.
The official information on the national government’s own web pages will also be adjusted and a warning will appear in the package leaflet of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Healthcare providers are updated on how to inform patients.
Outgoing Minister of Health Hugo de Jonge stated during an online meeting with the press on Thursday that the ministry had received no signals from people who doubt the vaccination. After several Dutch media stated that they did hear concerns, De Jonge did not rule out the possibility that the ministry might miss such signals.
“I do not deny that these types of signals exist. We receive thousands of responses every day on social media and via e-mail. It could well be that there was a concern,” said the minister, who also indicated that he understood the concerns of the Dutch.
De Jonge already addressed the vaccination doubters on Thursday and said that if their appointment was canceled, they must join “at the back of the queue”. He called on the Dutch to take the vaccine, because the chance of a serious disease course after infection is much greater than a possible serious side effect of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The AstraZeneca vaccine has been the subject of much discussion recently. The injection process with the drug was halted for two weeks on the advice of the Medicines Evaluation Board (MEB), after reports from European countries had appeared of people under the age of 50 who developed serious thrombosis and a shortage of platelets after vaccination.
Further research by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) showed that the vaccine can still be used safely, because the chance of these symptoms is so small that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. In a group of twenty million vaccinees in Europe, ‘only’ 25 reports had been received. As a result, a link between thrombosis and the vaccine could not even be established.
It was then decided to put the vaccine back into use immediately. The injection process will start next week because hundreds of thousands of appointments have to be rescheduled.
The ministry repeats in conversation with NU.nl that the AstraZeneca vaccine has been found to be safe and effective by experts. “The benefits in terms of protection against the virus are many times greater than the risks of these symptoms,” said the spokesman. This lecture is supported by European and Dutch experts.
- The formation process for the next Dutch government started on Monday 22 March, with “pathfinders” Kasja Ollongren and Annemarie Jorritsma having their first meetings with the party leaders. The two pathfinders will map out the possibilities for a new coalition.As the VVD and D66 came out as the largest parties in Wednesday’s election, and both gained parliamentary seats, there is a widely shared feeling that these two parties should take the lead in the formation process, according to NOS. Jorritsma is the leader of the VVD faction in the Eerste Kamer, the Dutch Senate. Ollongren is the D66 Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Home Affairs in the departing cabinet.
The pathfinders will meet with the party leaders in order of the number of seats obtained in the parliamentary election, from largest to smallest. On Monday, they’ll meet with VVD leader Mark Rutte, D66 leader Sigrid Kaag, PVV leader Geert Wilders, CDA leader Wopke Hoekstra, SP leader Lilian Marijnissen, PvdA leader Lilianne Ploulmen, GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver, and FvD leader Thierry Baudet. The remaining party leaders will follow on Tuesday.
The expectation is that Jorritsma and Ollongren will publish their findings by no later than Tuesday next week. To get a majority in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, the coming coalition will need to consist of at least four parties, like the departing Rutte III cabinet. The Tweede Kamer will debate the pathfinders’ report on Wednesday. After that one or more “informants” will be appointed to start the next phase of the cabinet formation.
Jorritsma said last week that she hoped the new cabinet will be formed by the summer. After the previous parliamentary election in 2017, the formation process took over seven months.
- Biddinghuizen in the province of Flevoland welcomed festival visitors again last Saturday for the first time in a year. The seventh and penultimate trial event was held on the event site of theme park Walibi Holland. About 1,500 visitors were allowed to party and dance at a dance festival after a negative corona test.The so-called Fieldlabs are intended as experiments to show whether events during corona time can take place safely. A pop festival was also organized on the event site on Sunday. The festivals were supposed to take place a weekend earlier, but were postponed due to the predicted heavy gusts of wind and rain.
Visitors were tested in advance and some had to take an extra quick test when entering the site. Anyone who tested positive for corona was not allowed on the site. Festivalgoers were then divided into three groups and equipped with a device with which their movements and contact moments were monitored.
That box kept track of who a visitor has contact with, how long that was and at what distance. The researchers will try to deduce an average number of contacts from this data.
This weekend, a new government corona app was also tested at the Fieldlab experiments which visitors can use to demonstrate that they have recently been tested negative. After a negative test, the visitors receive a code that they can enter in the app. It generates a QR code that is scanned at the entrance of the festival.
More than 6,200 people participated in the previous six fieldlabs. There were 41 of them who tested positive asymptomatically beforehand, meaning that they had contracted the coronavirus but showed no symptoms. They were not allowed to participate in the event.
Afterwards, five people were tested positive, says medical microbiologist Andreas Voss, lead researcher of the Fieldlab program. It is difficult to say whether those five were contaminated during one of the field lab events, said the researcher. According to him, it is also conceivable that the participants were infected at home afterward, for example, by housemates.
Voss is positive about the results so far. According to the researcher, pre-testing is therefore crucial when society will soon be more open again. “It gives us the opportunity to make more things possible, even before everyone in the Netherlands has been vaccinated.”
According to Voss, with pre-testing in the summer, it should be possible to organize concerts, theater, and cinema visits on a limited scale with certain measures. “If the numbers are going down again and the threat of the third wave is less, then this should certainly be safely possible.”
Voss is a bit more skeptical about festivals; the investigation has yet to show whether this is safely possible. A festival, says Voss, is riskier because of the large number of movements and contact moments. After all, more contact moments mean a greater chance of contamination. On the other hand, according to the researcher, it does help that festivals are often in the open air and there is, therefore, a lot of ventilation.
Previous fieldlab tests have taken place during two concerts in the Ziggo Dome, a theater performance by Guido Weijers, a conference, and at football games. The researchers expect to publish the results in three weeks.
- The police arrested 58 people on and around the Museumplein in Amsterdam on Saturday, and 1,400 others were ‘administratively relocated’ and transferred to another location at the end of the afternoon. The municipality emphasizes that they were not arrested.The municipality previously regarded the Museumplein and the immediate surroundings as a safety risk area. This was decided by the triangle (mayor, the police and the Public Prosecution Service) after there were indications that people would come to the square with weapons.
The police acted after protesters in the square were warned that the protest again did not comply with the corona measures and that it should not be held there. “The group did not heed repeated warnings from the police to leave,” the municipality said. Ultimately, the water cannon was used to get the demonstrators moving.
After the demonstration ended, a group of approximately fourteen hundred people marched to the Leidsekade. The group was locked in by the police and was transferred to another location after a few hours. “This decision was taken to restore order,” the municipality said.
“The triangle wants to emphasize that demonstrating is a fundamental right and that is facilitated every time as well as possible in Amsterdam. The aim is always to find a safe location with the organization through good consultation in advance, through the triangle, with the organization, and about what can and cannot be done. It is clear that despite the agreements made earlier, this organization intentionally and knowingly did not want to comply with them,” the municipality explains. The Museumplein was also designated a safety risk area on Sunday.
- The Ministry of Agriculture is planning changes which will cause the veal sector to shrink or even completely disappear.Currently, calves that were born from cows solely to stimulate their milk production are taken from their mothers after 14 days to fatten them before they are butchered. Companies often also import calves from abroad which make up around half of the 1.5 million calves slaughtered every year. The changes in legislature would mean the end of the current calf fattening business in the Netherlands, the NOS reports.
In the future, calves will have to stay with the dairy farmer for longer or even their entire lives and foreign imports will be restricted. The recommendations are too controversial to be dealt with by the outgoing Cabinet. The topic will likely be part of the discussion during the new Cabinet’s formation.
According to a report conducted under the supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Dutch Environmental Assessment Agency, this will change the role of the dairy farmer. At the moment, 70% of all calves born go straight to the meat industry.
The market for surplus calves has been a lucrative business since the 1960s. In this market the Netherlands has taken first place in Europe when it comes to size. 90% of the veal produced in the Netherlands is exported.
The sector, however, often receives heavy backlash. One reason is the high mortality rate among calves due to them not being able to strengthen their immune system through their mother’s milk. Calves are also shipped over long distances putting a strain on their health. To compensate for the young animals’ poor health, they are often fed large amounts of antibiotics which lead to bacteria becoming resistant to the medications.
Calf farming puts a strain on the climate as well. The manure created through the production of veal often causes damage to the environment. In 2019, Minister of Agriculture, Carola Schouten, launched an investigation on the sustainability of veal farming.
The report concluded that “the limited sales in the Netherlands, combined with the import of calves questions the right to produce.” Experts came up with three different scenarios in all of which the distance calves are shipped is greatly reduced and the import of calves is heavily restricted or completely forbidden. In one of the scenarios, calves will be allowed to remain on the dairy farm their entire lives and have access to unlimited drinking and higher quality bedding. The financial and economic consequences of the changes were not calculated in the report.
- On Tuesday, The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) warned against food supplements and tea with St. John’s wort (Dutch = sint-janskruid). New research shows that the herbal preparation can have harmful effects on health, the RIVM reports.For example, people use herbal preparations containing St. John’s wort to help them sleep better. It is unknown how many people use it.
The RIVM also conducted research in 2015, and already stated that the herb was certainly not recommended in combination with medicines. “For example, it reduces the effectiveness of chemotherapy or drugs against fungal or viral infections,” the institute concluded at the time. However, a new study now shows that the use of St. John’s wort can be harmful even without combination with medication.
The National Poisons Information Centre (NVIS) and side effects center Lareb received complaints about burned skin when people sat in the sun after using the herb. “Other complaints such as dizziness, diarrhea and anxiety can also occur”, according to the RIVM.
Anton Rietveld, head of the Food Safety Department at RIVM, states that for food supplements and tea it is not known from what dose St. John’s wort can be harmful. Moreover, dietary supplements – unlike medicines – are not tested or required to be scientifically researched.