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Janssen’s single shot vaccine offers 66% protection, Johnson & Johnson says

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Pharmaceuticals company Johnson & Johnson say that its single shot coronavirus vaccine, which is being developed in Leiden by Janssen Vaccines, offers 66% protection to a variety of forms of Covid.

‘The vaccine candidate is 72% effective in the US and 66% effective overall at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19, 28 days after vaccination,’ the company said on Friday.

The protection rate was lower, at 57% in South Africa. However, the vaccine offered 85% protection against the most serious Covid-19 symptoms and ‘complete protection’ against ‘Covid-related hospitalisation and death, 28 days post-vaccination,’ the company said.

The Netherlands has ordered 11.3 million doses of the Janssen vaccine, which can be kept longer at fridge temperature than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The company said it hopes to file for US approval in early February but did not say when European approval may be sought.

Meanwhile AstraZeneca, which is embroiled in a dispute with the European Union about vaccine deliveries, said on Friday it would do its utmost to meet agreed delivery targets but could not make any promises.

The contract between the EU and the pharmaceuticals company was published on Friday following European anger about the delays. The Dutch vaccination programme is largely based around the AstraZeneca vaccine, and delays threaten to slow down the already much criticised Dutch system even further.

As expected, the European Medicines Agency gave its approval to the AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday.

(DutchNews)

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Dutch primary schools may be able to open in February, prime minister says

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – If government advisors say that the more infectious form of coronavirus first identified in Britain is not spreading more quickly amongst primary school children, then those schools will be able to reopen in the second week of February, prime minister Mark Rutte said on Friday.

Speaking to reporters after the weekly cabinet meeting, Rutte said that initial reports from the Outbreak Management Team were ‘not bad’. ‘We are going to look to see if it can be done,’ Rutte said.

‘We don’t yet know if the ‘British’ variant is spreading more amongst children.’ Rutte said he recognised how difficult it is for both children and parents trying to work and study in a small space.

‘I agree that schools should open if they can’, Rutte said. Finance minister Wopke Hoekstra told reporters earlier in the day that ‘something would have to go very wrong’ for that not to happen.

Rutte also repeated health minister Hugo de Jonge’s statement that the Netherlands will catch up on the backlog of vaccination systems in the coming weeks. However, the prime minister said, ‘my biggest fear is the availability of vaccines.’

Some countries are already slowing down their vaccination programmes because they are running out, he said.

Press conference

Ministers will discuss the latest situation on Sunday, and government advisors will make their findings known to the cabinet on Tuesday morning, ahead of the planned press conference that evening.

However, insiders say the relaxation of other measures are unlikely, given that the decline in positive tests is slow. ‘We are going to try, and it will be complex, to give more perspective about what can be done, when the situation allows it,’ Rutte said.

‘But it is not black and white.’

Figures

Public health institute RIVM registered 4,438 positive coronavirus tests in the 24 hours to Friday morning, below the average of the past seven days. The seven-day average has been going down for the past week.

The number of people in hospital with coronavirus also continues to go down slightly, dropping to 2,231 on Friday, compared with 2,240 on Thursday. Of them, 659 are being treated in intensive care.

Tracing

Meanwhile, regional health boards say that the IT system for tracing contacts and passing on coronavirus test results is undergoing a security upgrade and that is leading to delays.

‘Limiting access to the information is reducing the speed at which we can do our work,’ a spokesman told broadcaster NOS. This week, RTL reported that call centre workers have access to private information about millions of people registered in the GGD system, and that some have been selling details to third parties.

(DutchNews)

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Children are wondering if lockdown will ever end, says helpline

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Children’s helpline Kindertelefoon has been fielding more calls from children in emotional distress during the current lockdown than during the first, research by the charity has shown.

The number of calls from children who felt depressed increased by 21% compared to a year ago, while calls about loneliness and thoughts of suicide increased by a third between December 14 last year and January 10 this year.

‘When the first lockdown happened, children rang us about the normal things but with a coronavirus aspect, like ‘Is it ok to visit my gran?’ But now children are reaching out about the mental problems they are experiencing,’ Kindertelefoon director Roline de Wilde told broadcaster NOS.

The charity talks to around 1,500 children between the ages of 8 to 18 a day, usually about subjects they don’t want or can’t discuss with anyone else. Sexuality is still the most common subject but emotional problems, which used to be in fourth place, has now become the second biggest issue.

There were fewer calls about love and friendship and that is worry, De Wilde said, because it means teens are having a hard time across the board. Calls from boys and children between 16 and 18 have also increased, she said.

Child psychologist Tischa Neve said that while the lockdown was new and exciting the first-time round, children are now wondering whether it will ever stop. The children’s home environment is under more pressure as well, with parents feeling the strain as well and perhaps people around them falling ill with the virus, she said.

Long term issues

Neve said the lack of contact with their peers at school and other social contacts would probably lead to more calls to the Kindertelefoon. It is not yet clear if children will experience long-term problems because of the lockdowns.

‘Children are generally very resilient. But I am worried for those who already had difficulties before the lockdowns. Parents and teachers will have to keep an eye on their well-being. A loving environment will go a long way towards sorting out most problems.’

(DutchNews)

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Health boards ignored coronavirus IT system privacy concerns: RTL

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The leaks in the regional health board systems for tracking and tracing people with coronavirus or registering those who had tested were known to the authorities months ago, but they failed to act, broadcaster RTL said on Thursday.

In addition, concerns about privacy raised by people working in the systems were ignored or brushed off by people in positions of authority, RTL said in its latest report on the scandal.

The broadcaster has spoken to dozens of people who were involved in planning tests or tracing contacts since reporting that two call centre workers had been arrested for selling private information online.

The main criticism stems from the fact that health board workers have free access to the system, and therefore information about millions of people. Workers are also concerned about the lack of supervision and the mass employment of outsiders who also have access to the data.

A spokesman for the health board organisation (GGD) said that it did not recognise the claims. Access Earlier this week, health minister Hugo de Jonge said workers could only access the ‘necessary’ details but RTL’s sources dispute that.

‘I could access the systems in all sorts of other health boards, which I should not have been able to do,’ one person said. ‘Everyone looks up their friends, family and famous people, and until recently, by pressing on ‘export’ you could get all the information.

I’m not at all surprised people are selling private information.’ In addition, staff would swap information via WhatsApp, or store it via Google or iCloud, RTL said.

(DutchNews)

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Dept. of Public Works and Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate refuse to give BOPEC permission to discharge oil

BONAIRE (KRALENDIJK) - The Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate’ (ILT) has completed the transfer of the heavy fuel from the old BOPEC tanks on Bonaire to two renovated tanks on the 7th of December 2020. These two tanks meet the standards and the fire-extinguishing system on these tanks has been repaired, tested, and approved. This eliminates the two greatest environmental risks.

BOPEC submitted a request to the Department of Public Works (Rijkswaterstaat-RWS) on the 11th of December 2020 for the removal of the oil by tanker in order to sell it. The request was submitted to the Department of Public Works because the pier is covered by the RWS permit “Wet maritiem beheer BES”. Since the oil needs to be pumped to the pier over land using pipelines, the removal of the oil also requires permission from ILT.

BOPEC submitted additional information to be assessed at the request of RWS and ILT on the 11th of January 2021. Both RWS and ILT concluded that the BOPEC installations do not meet the permit requirements and that the request cannot be approved for this reason. The risks involved in removing the oil in the current poor maintenance condition are simply too great.

For this reason, RWS rejected the request by BOPEC in consultation with ILT on the 19th of January 2021.

Subsequently, the same day BOPEC filed an objection against the rejection of the request. RWS will announce as soon as possible whether this objection from BOPEC will lead to an amendment to the decision. (RCN Caribbean Netherlands)

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No need to bring in army to quell riots, Rutte tells MPs during debate

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – There is no need to bring in the army to quell riots at present, but neither is there a taboo on doing so if needed, prime minister Mark Rutte told MPs during a debate on the recent troubles on Wednesday.

Far right leader Geert Wilders called on the government to put the army on standby, saying soldiers would be able to relieve pressure on the police, who are already overstretched.

‘That is what we have an army for,’ he told MPs. ‘Hopefully, the idiots stop rioting, but if they don’t… we should be ready.’ Mayors and police chiefs have said already they do not need reinforcements, and Tuesday evening passed off relatively peacefully, in the wake of Monday’s clashes.

Rutte told MPs that police chiefs have made it clear they can cope at present, and there is ‘no added value’ to taking such a step. Justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus pointed out the armed forces are already involved, given the riot police (ME or marechaussee) fall under defence ministry control.

‘Not a single mayor in my regular talks with them has said to me, “would you think about the army”,’ he said. In total, police made 131 arrests on Tuesday night, most of them in Rotterdam, and most of those picked up were under the age of 25.

Tuesday’s arrests take the total since the 9pm curfew was introduced on Saturday to over 560. King Willem-Alexander and queen Maxima issued a statement on Wednesday, praising the emergency services workers for their ‘fantastic work’ during the ‘difficult circumstances’ of the past few days.

The royals said that their thoughts went out to ‘all the small business owners and others who have been affected by violence’. And at the same time, they said they have been impressed by all the ‘heart-warming reactions’ from people who are helping each other. ‘Together we will get through this,’ the message said.

(DutchNews)

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‘Keep your children home,’ mayors urge parents amid fears of further trouble

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Rotterdam mayor Achmed Aboutaleb has spoken directly to the hundred or so youths involved in Monday evening’s riot, asking them if they now ‘feel happy’ with themselves.

Over 50 people were arrested after going on the rampage in the south of the city, smashing windows and looting shops. ‘Do you feel good, now you have caused havoc in your city, that you have caused damage to your city’s shopkeepers?’ Aboutaleb said. ‘Does it feel good to wake up next to a bag full of stolen things?’

Aboutaleb also appealed to parents. ‘Did you miss your son?’ he said. ‘Did you ask where he was. Did you ring him and tell him to come home because it was 9pm?

De dag na de geweldsuitbarsting in Zuid, de stad ruimt de scherven op. Bgm Aboutaleb spreekt de relschoppers en ouders toe, steekt ondernemers een hart onder de riem. En dankt de politie en diensten voor hun inzet. pic.twitter.com/5vMi3iCJRE — B en W Rotterdam (@College010) January 26, 2021

Aboutaleb, who is known for his plain speaking, goes on to tell the city’s businessmen and women that they will be helped. ‘We are going to support you and help you to make a new start,’ he said.

‘Because we won’t give up.’ Elsewhere, local mayors have been evoking their emergency powers to nip any violence on Tuesday evening in the bud. In Den Bosch, city officials say people have been placing messages on social media calling for more trouble, and some shop keepers have begun boarding up their windows.

The city’s mayor Jack Mikkers has also called on parents to keep their children home. Enschede and Amsterdam’s mayors made similar appeals. The youngest of the 184 rioters arrested on Monday evening was 14.

Criminal violence

Prime minister Mark Rutte has issued a second statement describing the rioting as ‘criminal violence’. De rellen hebben niets te maken met protesteren of strijden voor de vrijheid. We moeten samen de strijd tegen het virus winnen, want alleen zo krijgen we onze vrijheid terug. — Mark Rutte (@MinPres) January 26, 2021

These riots are nothing to do with protests or fighting for freedom, he said. ‘We have to defeat the virus together, because that is the only way we will get our freedom back.’

CDA leader Wopke Hoekstra said there would be no turning back on the curfew. ‘We’re not going to capitulate for a few idiots,’ he said. The first of the rioters to face criminal proceedings will be in court for a fast-track hearing on Wednesday.

(DutchNews)

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AstraZeneca production problems will hold up vaccination – De Jonge

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Health minister Hugo de Jonge has warned that problems with delivering the AstraZeneca vaccine could hold up the Dutch vaccination schedule still further.

The Netherlands was the last country in Europe to begin immunising its population and passed the 100,000 mark at the weekend, representing less than 1% of the population. Among the 27 EU nations only Bulgaria has a lower vaccination rate.

But De Jonge said any delay to the AstraZeneca vaccine would have consequences for the Netherlands, even though it has yet to be approved by the European Medicines Agency.

The European Union was due to receive 80 million doses of the vaccine in the first three months of 2021, but on Friday the Oxford-based company said only around 31 million doses would be available.

A spokesman for AstraZeneca blamed ‘reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain’. The Netherlands will now receive around 920,000 doses rather than 2.3 million in the first quarter, under the EU’s population-based distribution system.

The EMA is expected to make a decision on approving the vaccine by the end of January. De Jonge said the announcement was a ‘bolt from the blue’ and backed efforts in Brussels to ensure AstraZeneca fulfilled its contractural obligations.

‘Significant investment’

He insisted that the Netherlands’ vaccination programme could still meet its targets. ‘I still want to have all the groups that we regard as priority vaccinated before the summer, and everyone by the autumn.’

A spokesman for the European Commission said on Monday: ‘The EU has invested significant amounts in the company up front, precisely to ensure that production is ramped up even before the conditional market authorisation is delivered by the EMA.

Of course, production issues can appear with a complex vaccine, but we expect the company to find solutions and to exploit all possible flexibilities to deliver swiftly.’

(DutchNews)

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UP Party condemns Dutch Christian Democratic Party’s remarks about Bryson

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) —To read an article that shows a Member of Parliament in The Hague questioning our Party’s Leader for interacting with a Citizen of St. Maarten, and making that a focal point for discussion, at a time when our people are suffering through a global pandemic, economic decline, job loss, homelessness and an uncertain future, belittles the integrity of our elected leaders.

The UP Party issued the press release Sunday evening saying it found the article that appeared in the local newspaper portrayed an arrogant insistence by Dutch Politicians that they can dictate every action our elected officials take, without regard for the masses who they represent.

“The Honorable Rolando Bryson as President of Parliament has a responsibility to all Citizens of this Country and no one should be telling grown people who they can and cannot be in contact with. Whatever the Dutch Government’s gripe or burden with Francesco Corallo is not for the citizens of St. Maarten or its politicians to carry. It is unreasonable to assume that as members of our small community, we cannot be cordial with each other or risk ridicule by the Dutch Government. Whatever their agenda, it is for them to address on their own terms,” the release stated.

Mr. Corallo is a major contributor to St. Maarten’s economic development through his various business initiatives that have kept hundreds of people employed even at a time when thousands have been laid off.

According to the UP Party, “We remind the Dutch Government of the European Union EU Directive 2016/343 / EU of 9 March 2016, in Art.  4, which requires member states to 'take the necessary measures to ensure that, until the guilt of a suspect or accused person has been legally proven, public statements made by public authorities and judicial decisions other than those on guilt do not condemn the people as guilty.” 

“We the United People’s Party formally declare this to be an insult to the intelligence of our people. The Dutch Government through its financial assistance has made many unreasonable demands in exchange for helping the people and Government of St. Maarten address its financial shortfalls.

“Challenges that were magnified because of COVID-19, forced us to accept these conditions, which we are well aware constantly change after being met. However, to tell our politicians and parliamentarians they cannot associate with certain citizens of this country, or to suggest that by doing so they are doing something wrong/illegal is not a condition we will accept.”

The UP Party stands firmly in support of its Members of Parliament in their pursuit for Decolonization and in their efforts to bring public and private sector organizations together especially in this dark economic time. We urge the citizens of St. Maarten to recognize that though it is not a popular and exciting topic, finalizing the Decolonization of St. Maarten is even more important today as is evident by the boldfaced insinuation that our Political leaders should not speak to some of the citizens of this country. To do this is besmirch one’s character. As far as we are aware every citizen has a legal right to a defense and innocent or guilty, is the role of the Court.

This is neither democracy or politics but rather a petty attempt at slowing the process of rebuilding St. Maarten and keep us dependent.

The UP Party said it has not been critical of the Dutch Government after their new Cabinet fell in ruins over a scandal, but noted that “it does teach a valuable lesson. When your neighbors house is on fire, don’t celebrate before you wet yours down.”

MP Bryson has nothing to hide and has a responsibility to represent the people of this country, whether they elected him or not. The nature of the conversation he had with the businessman could have been about anything including ensuring that the people in his employ are being cared for and have job security. After all, he was elected into office to serve the people.

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Positive coronavirus tests dip below 5,000; 3,600 are fined for breaking curfew

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The public health institute RIVM registered 4,924 positive coronavirus tests in the 24 hours to Sunday morning, down some 500 on Saturday and the first dip below the weekly average in four days.

The new figures take the total number of positive coronavirus tests in the Netherlands since the pandemic began last February to 945,000, out of a population of 17.4 million, news website Nu.nl said.

The Netherlands introduced a curfew on Saturday night with the aim of reducing socialising and so cutting the spread of the virus, particularly the more infectious variant first identified in Britain.

Police say the first night of the curfew went relatively smoothly despite trouble in Urk and Stein. Nevertheless, they still handed out 3,600 fines to people who were outside after 9pm without a valid reason and arrested 25.

The high number of fines is because of the strict approach which had been adopted from the word go, police spokesman Willem Woelders told the website.

(DutchNews)

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