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Catering trade to take government to court over second wave shutdown

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A group of 30 restaurant and cafe owners are going to court to try to overturn the government’s shutdown of the hospitality sector as part of the latest Covid-19 restrictions.

All bars, cafés and restaurants are closed to sit-in customers for at least the next four weeks, though they can continue to operate as takeaways. Hotels can only serve resident guests.

Catering sector organisation Koninklijke Horeca Nederland (KHN) has said its businesses are being unfairly singled out despite being responsible for only 1.8% of infections, according to the official figures.

A group of business owners will seek an injunction on Tuesday from the district court in The Hague to overturn the measure. Michael Meeuwissen, owner of De Posthoorn wine bar in the city and the leader of the campaign, told the Telegraaf: ‘I have seen that our customers carefully observe the social distancing rules and that they keep a keen eye on the staff.

We do the same with the customers. There is no reason whatsoever to shut us down.’ The catering sector petitioned the courts over the summer to order the virus control measures to be eased faster but were unsuccessful.

KHN chairman Robèr Willemsen said there was widespread disbelief, frustration and sorrow in the industry at the shutdown. ‘The catering industry has been hit deeply and I am very concerned about the future landscape of our sector.

This shutdown will be the final blow for many business owners. ‘We submitted a plan for smarter restrictions to the cabinet that would have avoided a shutdown of the sector, but it made no difference.’

KHN has also called for the government to expand the emergency financial support package to cover 100% of lost revenue and extend repayment terms for bank loans.

(DutchNews)

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Slight drop in coronavirus cases in last 24 hours, more patients in hospital

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Coronavirus infections showed a slight fall on Monday after three days of slower rises, according to the latest daily update by the public health agency RIVM.

Another 8,015 new cases were notified by local health boards in the 24 hours to 10am, the third highest number since the outbreak began but 162 fewer than on Sunday.

The figure also represents a 17.1% rise in the past seven days, the smallest weekly increase since the first week of September.

Another 86 Covid-19 patients were reported in hospital, bringing the total number to 1,738, the national patient distribution service reported. There are currently 379 patients in intensive care.

In the last seven days an average of 25 patients are reported to have died with the virus, compared to 19 a week ago.

Deaths are likely to keep rising for two to three weeks after the infection rate starts to fall. The highest concentrations of infections is in the major cities, with 543 new cases in Rotterdam, 539 in Amsterdam and 313 in Utrecht.

(DutchNews)

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Work on Smoke Alley hairpin bend on schedule

SINT EUSTATIUS (ORANJESTAD) - With the recent concrete pour, contractor Statia Road and Construction has now almost completed 75% of the renovation work on the hairpin bend of Smoke Alley. The work on the access road to and from the port of Statia started at the beginning of August this year.

The Smoke Alley project should be finalized at the end of 2020. Phasing is necessary to work sequentially on parts of the road, by means of a half lane closure. After completion, the road will meet safety standards for all types of vehicles and be less demanding to motor vehicles. Rainwater will be collected at Upper Town and diverted to a water infiltration zone instead of flowing down into the ocean, limiting erosion and damage to the coral.

The project is supervised by the Directorate of Economy, Nature and Infrastructure in collaboration with Rijkswaterstaat in the Netherlands. The project is financed by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. (Statia GIS)

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Lockdown party on parliament’s doorstep was ‘totally irresponsible’

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Hague local council is looking into the possibility of prosecuting a group of revellers who had a party just meters away from parliament, where politicians were discussing the government’s coronavirus policy.

Footage captured by BBC correspondent Anna Holligan showed a party tent packed with people while loud music played, just 25 minutes before cafes and restaurants were due to shut for a four-week period.

Police intervened around 10pm but no fines were handed out. The Hague mayor Jan van Zanen branded the event ‘totally irresponsible’.

These people don’t give a damn about the hardworking people who work in care, or the patients who are in intensive care or whose operations are being postponed. People want to party, that is understandable, but this sort of selfish behaviour will only lead to a longer period of measures.

They are harming themselves and people with businesses,’ Van Zanen said. The owner of the bar in question may also be prosecuted, The Hague local council said. PvdA leader Lodewijk Asscher called attention to the party during the debate and called the participants ‘louts’.

‘It shows we have a long way to go if we are to deal with this virus together. This is giving the finger to all the entrepreneurs who are suffering the consequences of this,’ Asscher said.

Politician also took to Twitter to condemn the event. ‘Unacceptable. Keep to the rules and do it for others!’ defence minister Ank Bijleveld said.

Hospitality industry

Dirk Beljaarts, head of the hospitality industry association Horeca Nederland, said the party had damaged the ‘carefully restored status of a safe environment in bars and restaurants’.

‘This is not the image we want to project at this time. It is unacceptable when businesses have given their all in the last two months to offer a safe place to people,’ Beljaarts told the Telegraaf.

Cafe owner John Prins told broadcaster NOS later that ‘I cannot put right what is wrong, but I do think things have been taken out of context.’ Prins said he had put the music out at 9.30pm because his customers could not be controlled. ‘We are not a party café at all,’ he said. ‘I am so embarrassed for my parents.’

Other cities

People were calling for last rounds in many other cities too, with some bars advertising special lockdown offers to ‘empty the barrels’. Bars and cafes were ordered to close their doors for at least four weeks on Tuesday in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus.

(DutchNews)

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New coronavirus infections near 8,000, over 300 people are now in IC

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of newly reported coronavirus infections in the Netherlands rose by 7,833 in the 24 hours to Thursday morning, further confirming that measures introduced two weeks ago have not had an impact.

The Thursday total is up 537 on Wednesday and takes the average daily number of positive tests in the past week to 6,884, over 3,000 more than a week ago.

In total, 313 patients are now being treated in IC wards, and 1,526 people are in hospital, a rise of 51 on Wednesday. The daily death toll, now averaging around 23 people a day, is also showing a significant rise on a week ago.

Ernst Kuipers, head of the national patient distribution centre said the continued increase in positive tests is a ‘crying shame’. ‘It does not yet seem to have gotten through to people that we are dealing with more than 7,000 infections a day.’

On Tuesday, the government introduced a raft of new measures, describing them as a ‘partial lockdown’. Ministers are also working on rules so it will be possible to make face masks mandatory.

The new measures, which include closure of all cafes, bars and restaurants for four weeks, will be assessed in two weeks’ time to see if there is any improvement. If not the government says it will impose a total lockdown.

(DutchNews)

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Banks say they won’t automatically bail out firms hit by new lockdown

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Cafes and bars which end up in financial difficulty because of the new four-week shut-down cannot count on the financial support of their banks any longer, Chris Buijnink, chairman of the Dutch banking federation told broadcaster NOS.

‘It is in no-one’s interest, not even that of the cafe owner, if they continue to get into debt with no real future,’ he said. ‘It is hard, and it is difficult. I feel for people, but this is the sensible way which we, as banks, help other companies.’

Early in the crisis banks agreed to a six-month moratorium on payments for thousands of small firms, and private individuals could also ask for a halt to mortgage and loan repayments.

Central bank

The Dutch central bank said on Tuesday that Dutch banks are well positioned to weather the coronavirus crisis and can take far more losses before the end of their reserves is in sight.

And banks do want to continue helping people, Buijnink said. ‘But it has to be companies which have future prospects, which are essentially healthy.’

Employers

Employers organisations VNO-NCW and MKB Nederland say new government help will be inevitable in several sectors following the introduction of a partial lockdown and prime minister Mark Rutte did say on Tuesday evening that there would be more help for companies under the existing schemes.

‘The cabinet has to take measures to try to stop the spread of the virus, but it is an enormous blow to companies,’ said Ingrid Thijssen, chairwoman of the biggest employer’s association VNO-NCW.

It is crucial, she said, that sectors which are ‘being repeatedly hit, like hospitality, events and transport get extra support.’ In the first instance, a ‘time-out’, giving employers the option of temporarily freezing their operations would help some avoid bankruptcy, Thijssen said.

In practice this would mean companies would not have to sell their equipment at rock bottom prices but could close their doors until the virus is under control.

Sports

Sports clubs too are facing financial problems. All sports matches with more than four people have been halted temporarily although children can continue to play team sports but not travel to matches.

While professional football will continue, without supporters, the suspension will continue to cost the amateur game some €4m a week, Jan Dirk van der Zee, head of the amateur football at the KNVB, told broadcaster NOS.

Sports canteens were closed three weeks ago because players and supporters were not sticking to social distancing rules. ‘Some 60% of clubs are facing financial problems and that worries me enormously,’ he said.

Hotels

Hotels and tourism will again be hard hit by the new rules and Roberto Payer, director of Amsterdam’s Hilton and Waldorf Astoria hotels, told the Financieele Dagblad that he can now send home the last of his staff.

‘Like other hotels, our occupancy rate is 10% of what it normally is,’ he said. ‘I have already had to let go 200 of our 420 staff members. It is terrible. Some of them have worked for us for 20 years.’

The hospitality sector, he said, is now carrying the can for the irresponsible behaviour of others. ‘Many youngsters are failing to act responsibly,’ he said. ‘And we have to pick up the bill for them partying on, whatever happens. It makes me very angry.’

(DutchNews)

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Positive coronavirus tests continue to top 7,300 as more are admitted to hospital

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A further 7,305 positive coronavirus tests were reported to the public health institute RIVM, taking the average over the past seven days to around 6,600.

Some 1,475 people are now being treated in hospital, of whom 301 are in intensive care, hospital officials said. Most positive tests – 637 – were in Amsterdam, but there were also 558 in Rotterdam and 322 in The Hague.

Officials say it will be a week at least before the impact of tough new measures to halt the spread of the virus begin to have an impact.

Meanwhile, hospital chiefs are warning that accident and emergency departments have been closed on occasion in the three big cities because of the number of coronavirus admissions.

‘Because hospitals were full, the A&E departments were full and ambulances were waiting outside,’ acute care chief Ernst Kuipers told MPs on Wednesday.

Last weekend Kuipers called on the government to introduce a new lockdown because hospitals are being forced to cancel regular care to cope with the pandemic.

(DutchNews)

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The Netherlands goes into partial lockdown; face masks will be compulsory

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Cafes, bars and restaurants in the Netherlands are to be shut for at least four weeks from Wednesday 10pm in an effort to get coronavirus under control, prime minister Mark Rutte told reporters on Tuesday evening.

The measures, in total, amount to a partial lockdown, Rutte said. ‘The number of social contacts and movements we make has to be cut drastically,’ he said. ‘It is the only way. We have to be tough on ourselves and on our behaviour.’

The number of newly notified positive coronavirus tests in the Netherlands soared by a further 7,393 cases in the 24 hours to Tuesday 10am and there were nearly 44,000 newly registered cases of coronavirus in the past week.

‘Too many people are not keeping to the rules,’ Rutte said. ‘Then we can do nothing but take tougher measures to make sure that we can no longer meet each other.’ The government also plans to make face masks compulsory in all indoor public spaces, but that still needs to be worked out legally.

‘We want to prevent discussion about the measures,’ Rutte said. ‘We want people to stick to them.’ This is also why a ban on the sale of alcohol after 8pm is being introduced, Rutte said.

‘People were asking why cafes had to close at 10pm while they could still buy alcohol. So now we have dealt with that,’ he said. The measures, described by Rutte as a hammer, would be assessed after two weeks to see if any progress is being made.

‘But they will last at least four weeks and if that does not help, then we will go into a total lockdown.’

Coffee shops

Cannabis cafes will also be closed again, but can still open for takeaways, as can restaurants. Hotels can remain open but their restaurants are restricted to hotel guests.

Other new measures on the list include limiting group numbers to four, inside and outside and, Rutte pledged, enforcement will be stepped up. The rule limiting the number of visitors to three will be expanded to a 24-hour period, which means no more relay birth parties, Rutte said. Team sports for adults in groups of more than four are also being halted and junior sports competitions are also being paused to stop people having to travel to away matches.

Schools

The situation in secondary schools will not change, but face masks are now ‘urgently recommended’ at colleges and universities when students are moving around. Once the law has been changed, they will be compulsory.

Shops will no longer be able to open in the evening, apart from food shops, and ministers are holding urgent talks with retail organisations to make sure the hygiene rules are properly followed and that shopper numbers are limited.

‘If we see things are not going well in a shop, then it can be shut down,’ Rutte said. Ministers are also talking to employers and unions to make sure that more people work at home.

Statistics from public transport companies and road users show that too many people are still travelling to work, Rutte said.

Road map

Ministers and health officials have now drawn up a road map outlining what measures need to be taken at what level so that this is ‘clear to everyone’ health minister Hugo de Jonge said.

‘We are currently at the highest level,’ he said. ‘This is very serious.’ Asked why the Dutch appear to be doing much worse than other countries, De Jonge said some people take the attitude that advice is something that does not have to be followed.

‘You have to do it. Let us stop debating about advice,’ he said. ‘The period of being without obligations is absolutely over.’

(DutchNews)

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Coronavirus infections rise by 44,000 in a week; there is no let up, says RIVM

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of newly notified positive coronavirus tests in the Netherlands soared by a further 7,393 cases in the 24 hours to Tuesday 10am, health officials said.

There were nearly 44,000 newly registered cases of coronavirus in the past week, a 60% rise on the week earlier period, according to the public health institute RIVM’s weekly update.

In total, 150 deaths were reported, compared with 89 in the previous seven day period, while the number of people being treated in intensive care rose from 121 to 192.

Hospital admissions were up 40% on the week and the positive test rate rose from 10.4% to 13.8%. ‘The virus is continuing to spread without let up,’ the RIVM said.

‘There is no effect to be seen from the national measures taken on September 29 and there is no stabilisation in the number of positive tests.’

The government is due to announce a new get tough approach to combating the virus on Tuesday evening which may include a total closure of cafes, bars and restaurants.

‘The number of infections is increasing across all age groups,’ the RIVM said. ‘The largest group of people with a positive test result per 100,00 people remains 18 to 24-year-olds.

The Volkskrant has a leaked copy of the ‘route map’ which outlines how the spread of the virus should be contained in the coming days, and which is likely to be the basis of tonight’s crunch announcement.

Prime minister Mark Rutte said last Friday that the Netherlands planned to work with a route map to deal with the second wave of the virus. The document lists the measures which should be taken at each of four risk levels, and shows that the Netherlands is nearing the ‘very serious’ category, the paper said.

Europe

Meanwhile, European foreign affairs ministers have voted in favour of coordinating responses to restrictions in free movement within the EU in a bid to end the chaos of overlapping measures and travel curbs.

The measures state that member states should provide the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) with weekly data covering newly notified cases, the testing rate and percentage of positive tests.

These will then be used to colour-code a map of Europe which, the council says, will ‘support member states in their decision-making.’ The map will consist of four colours – green, orange and red, with grey for countries where there is insufficient information or a low test rate.

‘The decision on whether to introduce restrictions to free movement to protect public health remains the responsibility of member states,’ the council said in a statement. ‘However, coordination on this topic is essential.’

(DutchNews)

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