Soualiga Newsday Features

Soualiga Newsday Features (2353)

A coronavirus risk? Compulsory quarantine comes in next week

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – People identified as possible coronavirus carriers during track and trace investigations and those returning from risky countries abroad will now face compulsory quarantine until they have been tested, health minister Hugo de Jonge has announced.

In particular, the requirement is to be brought in for people identified as having been in close contact with a coronavirus patient, following mounting refusals to follow the voluntary guidelines.

‘Over the past few weeks, we have been hearing that people are not cooperating with the contract tracing programme,’ De Jonge said in a briefing to MPs, ahead of Wednesday’s debate.

‘But [contact tracing] is our way of strengthening the dyke, to prevent a second wave.’ The measure will be phased in, in full discussion with local health boards and safety regions and will start in the second half of next week.

‘This is what we asked for and we support it,’ Hubert Bruls, chairman of the safety board council, told broadcaster NOS. The legal basis for compulsory quarantine is already enshrined in public health legislation and parliament will not have to give the go ahead for the move.

Ministers are also looking at how to compel people who test positive for coronavirus to take part in the contact tracing research, De Jonge said.

People who have spent time in countries labeled as risky by the foreign affairs ministry will also face compulsory quarantine on their return. Again, the details of how this is to be monitored still have to be finalised.


Meanwhile, people who have spent time in Morocco are to be refused entry to the Netherlands for all but essential journeys, justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus has announced.

The measure has been taken following a surge in coroanvirus cases in Morocco and will come into effect on August 13. The ban on travel from Morocco had been lifted on July 1.



MPs criticise chaotic government coronavirus strategy after three days of 600+ infections

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A further 654 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the Netherlands, and nine more people have been admitted to hospital, according to new figures from the health ministry’s Covid-19 dashboard.

Over 600 people a day have been diagnosed with the virus for the past three days, but officials said on Wednesday that Tuesday’s shock 779 total included 155 people who had not been officially registered in the previous four weeks.

The figures came as MPs debated the government’s coronavirus strategy, with parliamentarians from across the political spectrum criticising both policy and the way ministers are communicating with the public.

The efforts made by healthcare workers, by companies who have lost work and by people cut off from friends and family should not have been in vain, said Labour leader Lodewijk Asscher during the debate.

The government’s strategy of the past week has been chaotic, Asscher said. ‘You cannot say on Thursday that we are not going to force people to do things and then…on Tuesday… come out with a requirement,’ he said, referring to the decision to introduce compulsory quarantine.

Together, government and opposition, should work together now to draw up a clear, ambitious strategy, Asscher said. Testing should be made easier, particularly for people who don’t have a car and can’t get to the test centres.

Contact tracing should be stepped up with more people and clear targets. And officials should work together with schools to make sure they can open their doors on Monday, and are properly ventilated, he said.

‘Put together a quarantine package, that is to say, do something for everyone we are asking to stay in isolation for two weeks,’ he said. This could be help for people who lose income because they don’t work, a hotel room if they need to remove themselves from others and a shopping service if that proves necessary.



RIVM ‘downplayed’ ventilation system risk in virus spread, Volkskrant claims

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The role of the internal ventilation system in a coronavirus outbreak at a nursing home in Maassluis was ‘downplayed’ by the public health institute RIVM, the Volkskrant said on Tuesday.

In addition, the RIVM was reluctant to issue warnings about the possible dangers posed by air conditioning systems which recirculate air, the paper said. The Volkskrant bases its claim on correspondence between the researchers and the RIVM.

Doctor and microbiologist Peter de Man, who was involved in the research, declined to comment on the correspondence but did tell the paper: ‘As a group of professionals, we are convinced that the virus was spread through the air, under the influence of the ventilation system.’

This, the paper says, is more concrete that the words which the RIVM used in the finalised report. It’s conclusions stated that ‘the combination of findings … suggests that the … virus may have been spread further by a ventilation system’.

The RIVM did, however, revise its ventilation guideline of July 28, stating that ventilation systems which recirculate air were not to be recommended, as a precaution.

In total, 17 of the 21 residents of De Tweemaster nursing home and 18 staff were infected with coronavirus in the space of three days, despite staff wearing surgical masks.

Six residents died. The safety of ventilation systems is particularly important because autumn is approaching, making infections in closed spaces more likely.



Over 4,000 new Covid-19 patients in one week, positive test rate hits 3.5%

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of coronavirus patients has risen for the fifth week in a row, with 4,036 new cases reported in the past seven days, according to new figures from public health institute RIVM.

That is 1,448 more than in the previous week, RIVM chief epidemiologist Jaap van Dissel told MPs during a briefing on the crisis on Tuesday. The percentage of positive tests has also increased from 2.3% to 3.6%, the RIVM later confirmed.

However, just 38 Covid-19 patients were admitted to hospital, down six on the previous week. Nine people died, a rise of three on the first week of August. Van Dissel told MPs that youngsters continue to account for the bulk of new infections and that this would explain the low hospitalisation rate because they tend to experience milder symptoms.


Concern has also been mounting in recent days about the impact of good ventilation and air conditioning systems on the spread of the virus, particularly with autumn school terms poised to start soon.

Asked by Labour leader Lodewijk Asscher about what to do about schools which do not meet the proper requirements, Van Dissel said: ‘The scientific advice would be to make sure you meet the building requirements.

And in terms of enforcement, I would refer to the policy.’ Van Dissel also said he is not in favour of making face masks compulsory in schools, as has been mooted in Germany.

‘What we have to do is to prevent infections spreading at family gatherings,’ he said. ‘That total has to go down, because we want to give children the opportunity to go to school.’

Contact tracing

Van Dissel also said the decision by Amsterdam and Rotterdam health boards to reduce their workload in terms of contact tracing as ‘very worrying’. ‘To ensure our current approach is successful… we have to be successful in contact tracing,’ he said.

So far, 333 clusters have been identified in the Netherlands, and 60% infections take place in the home environment. MPs will hold a debate on the government’s coronavirus strategy on Wednesday.



Aviation inspectors ‘concerned’ about sharp rise in incidents on planes

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Transport ministry inspectors say they are concerned about the increase in airline passengers causing trouble since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

In July, there were 94 reports, of which 58 were coronavirus-related, such as a refusal to wear a face mask, the aviation inspectorate ILT said. Between 2017 and 2019, there were an average of 82 reports about passengers causing trouble on a monthly basis, but there were also far more plane services.

The ILT says it is concerned about the incidents, because they could pose a risk to flight safety and it is calling on ‘everyone involved’ to take more preventative measures.

In one incident, widely circulated on social media, a fight broke out on board a KLM flight to Ibiza after two men refused to wear a mask. Both men were drunk and arrested on arrival at the Spanish island.



Positive coronavirus test total rises again, MPs to debate increase Wednesday

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A further 630 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the Netherlands in the past 24 hours, according to new figures from the public health institute RIVM.

Like last week, Rotterdam and Amsterdam account for the bulk of the new cases, with 177 and 105 positive tests, respectively. And again, like last week, most of the positive tests involve people in their 20s and 30s.

RIVM chief epidemiologist Jaap van Dissel is returning early from holiday to brief MPs on the latest situation, according to the AD. The briefing is scheduled for Tuesday morning and MPs are holding an emergency debate on Wednesday, following the rise in positive test results.

Six more people were admitted to hospital, but there were no Covid-19 related deaths, the figures, from the government’s coronavirus monitoring website, show. The number of positive tests has been going up steadily since the second week in July and there are now 3.6 positive tests per 100,000 people.

At the same time, the number of people having tests has dropped, declining by 10,000 last week. Officials now hope that Thursday’s appeal by the government for more people to have checks is having an effect, and according to initial figures, the decline in testing may have slowed down. The RIVM will issue its weekly update on Tuesday.



Escapee penguin recaptured after 11 kilometre swim to freedom

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – An enterprising penguin which escaped from the Avifauna bird park in Alphen aan den Rijn has been caught in water near the village of Bodegraven, some 11 kilometres away.

The bird, a young male, is one of 30 Humboldt penguins living at the zoo and officials say they have no idea how he escaped. ‘He has been caught wandering round the park a couple of times, and now he appears to have gotten out altogether,’ a spokeswoman told local broadcaster Omroep West.

‘It is actually pretty impressive.’ The bird was checked over by vets and was found to be in perfect health, before being placed back in the colony. Several people had contacted the zoo to say they had spotted the penguin swimming along before he was finally caught.



Friesland’s first coronavirus cluster traces back to Dokkum cafe terrace

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Despite claims that people are unlikely to become infected with coronavirus outdoors, some 14 people in their 20s and 30s have picked up Covid-19 after spending time on a busy café terrace in the Frisian town of Dokkum.

The source of the outbreak has been traced out to one young man, and most of the others are thought to have become infected while sitting too close together outside, the local health board said in a statement.

Everyone found to have the virus is now in quarantine and no-one has been hospitalised, the health board said. The young man who spread the virus to others picked it up at a small gathering of friends at home in late July.

‘We do not know exactly how the virus was able to multiply but we have established that the group were not keeping far enough apart and that most infections took place on the terrace,’ the health board said.

‘This is a typical example of going out when you have symptoms. The rules have clearly been ignored.’ Dokkum mayor Johannes Kramer says officials will now step up monitoring cafes and bars.

‘The virus is not a problem happening somewhere else,’ he told local paper Leeuwarder Courant. ‘It is just round the corner.’ The infection rate in the north of the country remains far below that of the south and central areas.

Nationwide, officials have identified 259 separate infection clusters, but this is the first in Friesland, the paper said. Prime minister Mark Rutte made a direct appeal to youngsters to keep to social distancing and other rules at Thursday’s press conference.



Donations flood in for family of Polish man who drowned trying to save children

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A crowdfunding campaign for the family of a Polish man who drowned last weekend while trying to save three children from the sea had raised over €140,000 by early on Friday morning.

Marcin Kolczynski, 37, died after breaking off a phone call to his wife to try to help the children who had gotten into difficulty in the sea near Julianadorp. The beach did not have lifeguards.

‘Marcin had three children and a wife in Poland. He was a seasonal worker and so I thought that his family would not be well off,’ Martina Janasz, who started the fund-raiser, told television talk show Editie NL.

‘As a woman from Poland, I know how tough things can be in Poland, and given the fact that he came to the Netherlands for seasonal work, then I knew enough.’ Janasz approached the family via Facebook for permission to launch the crowdfunder.

The three children in the sea were brought to safety but Kolczynski got caught up in a rip tide and disappeared from view. His body washed up an hour later.



Ambassador’s wife dies from injuries sustained in Lebanon explosion

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The wife of the Netherlands ambassador to Lebanon has died of injuries sustained in Tuesday’s explosion in Beirut.

Hedwig Waltmans-Molier was serious injured in the blast on August 4, shortly after returning to Beirut following a holiday.

She was in the family sitting room with her husband Jan when the explosion took place and was hit by ‘sheer bad luck’, the Dutch foreign affairs embassy said in a statement.

The couple had been together for 39 years. Waltmans-Molier worked as HR partner within the ministry’s HR department, working from both The Hague and Beirut.

Five other Dutch nationals were among the thousands injured in the explosion and the total death toll is now over 150.


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