Soualiga Newsday Features

Soualiga Newsday Features (2460)

Opinion is divided about tougher lockdown, as coronavirus cases rise again

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A number of infectious disease specialists in the Netherlands are calling on the government to impose a tougher lockdown in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus, saying the current measures are not having enough impact.

On Thursday, over 9,000 positive tests were registered with the public health agency RIVM, and although the rate of increase appears to be slowing, they say a ‘short, sharp’ lockdown is needed.

The group, calling themselves the Red Team, have been passing their own recommendations on dealing with the virus to the government for some weeks, and consider themselves an alternative to the official Management Outbreak Team.

Prime minister Mark Rutte has also described them as the group who ‘keep us on our toes’. Red team member Wim Schellekens has now told RTL Nieuws that the rise in the number of infections shows the first measures introduced by the government have not had enough effect.

Schellekens says all shops part from supermarkets and pharmacies should be closed and schools should also shut their doors for two weeks. ‘If we go for a tough lockdown, we will be able to pick up some of our normal lives in two weeks,’ he said.

‘But in the meantime, we need to get the testing and tracing programmes up to speed.’

Too soon

However, Anja Schreijer, a member of the OMT, told broadcaster NOS it is still too early to assess if the partial lockdown is having an impact. ‘You can’t make policy on the day to day figures,’ she said.

‘The partial lockdown was introduced a week ago and people need to adjust their behaviour. Only then will the effect be felt, and you will be able to see it in the figures.’ Meanwhile, the Twente public safety, led by Almelo mayor Arjen Gerritsen, is calling for a total lockdown in the region as the positive test rate there rises to one in five.

‘We have seen an explosive increase in the number of infections,’ he said. ‘This morning we were looking at the potential situation with the celebrations in December. It could be a very quiet month.’ When the partial lockdown was announced earlier this month, the government said it would reassess the situation in two weeks’ time – or by next Tuesday.

However, the partial lockdown would last at least four weeks, Rutte said at the time.



New coronavirus cases top 10,000, as testing capacity is ramped up

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of newly registered coronavirus cases topped 10,000 for the first time in the 24 hours to Friday morning, figures from national health institute RIVM show.

In total, 10,007 new cases were reported to the authorities, a rise of 726 on Thursday’s figure. Although the number of positive tests has increased, this could also be linked to an increase in testing, which was the case last week, broadcaster NOS said.

Testing capacity has been expanded considerably since early October, thanks to the involvement of foreign labs, and the testing service can now cope with some 50,000 tests a day.

However, the true picture of how fast the virus is spreading will not be available until Tuesday, when the RIVM publishes its latest weekly analysis.

A further 248 people were admitted to hospital overnight, 10 more than on Thursday, and 43 people were taken to intensive care, 13 down on the previous 24-hour period.

Most of those admitted to IC units were already being treated in hospital. The new admissions take the total number of people currently being treated in hospital to 2073, up 70 in 24 hours, while the number of people in an IC ward rose by nine to 472.

A couple of Dutch patients have also been airlifted to hospitals in Germany because of the lack of ward space in the Netherlands.


Despite it being the half-term holidays, ministers are holding an extra cabinet meeting in The Hague to discuss the coronavirus situation in the Netherlands. Jaap van Dissel and the heads of other government think-tanks also met ministers on Friday morning to discuss the crisis.

Prime minister Mark Rutte said when announcing the partial lockdown earlier this month that the situation would be assessed again on by next Tuesday.



Faecal transplants could revolutionise treatment of diabetes 1

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Amsterdam’s UMC teaching hospital is to be given €1m to investigate the role of gut bacteria in diabetes type 1.

Donors diabetes charities Diabetis Fonds and Stichting DON said the research is ‘a new and unexpected but very promising approach’ to the illness, which affects some 120,000 people in the Netherlands.

In people with diabetes type 1 the immune system prevents the production of insulin, which patients have to administer to themselves. Researchers now think that a faecal transplant may weaken the immune system’s reaction.

The microbiome, or gut, contains bacteria, yeasts and viruses and plays a role in the workings of sugar metabolism and the immune system.

In people with diabetes 1, the composition of microbiome and the gut’s immune system are different and the presence of gut bacteria from a healthy person could help stabilise the illness, preventing peaks or even curing it completely.

The investigation is expected to take five years and could lead to a completely new treatment for diabetes 1, both for people who have just been diagnosed and those who have had the illness for longer, researchers said.

‘I’m very optimistic about the idea of faecal transplants for these patients, also because I’m convinced it will lead to a better understanding of the cause of the disease,’ Professor Max Nieuwdorp of Amsterdam UMC said.



Seven fast Covid testing centres set to open in November: RTL Nieuws

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Netherlands will have seven drop-in centres where people can have a fast coronavirus test in the coming weeks, sources have told broadcaster RTL Nieuws.

The army is being involved in setting up the drive-in centres and will also train people to administer the tests, the broadcaster said. The plan has not yet been confirmed by the health ministry and no-one has yet said where the centres will be located, or which of the fast tests currently on trial in the Netherlands will be used.

Nor is it clear who will be eligible for the quicker tests, which should reduce the need for long periods of self-isolation.

Earlier, health minister Hugo de Jonge suggested the fast tests could be used for people who work in education or healthcare, and other key workers.

The fast tests may also be used for people who are shown to have been at risk as a result of the corona app, De Jonge said. More clarity is expected early next week, RTL said.



Indoor pollution: proper ventilation while cooking is key, says TNO

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Poor ventilation, particularly in the kitchen, is pushing fine particulate pollution levels to above the yearly average considered safe by the World Health Organisation in some Dutch homes according to research institute TNO.

While the probe was too limited for the results to be applicable on a national level, it is a good indication of what is happening in many Dutch homes, TNO researcher Piet Jacobs told the Volkskrant.

In total, 101 homes in the research project provided reliable measurements. Fine particulate pollution causes respiratory problems and increases the risk of heart and lung disease.

TNO, which used sensors to measure particulate levels, measured an average of ten day on which the levels where higher than the WHO norm, with some homes never exceeding the level and some showing excessive levels on more than 35 days.

In winter levels are higher, because windows tend to be closed, the researchers said. Cooking is one of the most important culprits, apart from smoking, which was not included in the probe.

This was because, Jacob said, smoking ‘leaves all other sources of particulates standing’. Peak levels of particulates were measured when people were cooking, the probe found.

Good extraction systems are needed but nothing has been included about their quality in building regulations, Jacob said. Most new builds have a basic system which are incapable of providing enough ventilation, he said, while re-circulation extraction systems only filter the air and do not expel it.

This type of system only removes about 30% of particulates during cooking, the investigation found. The probe found that around half of the fine particulate pollution in the homes came from sources outside, such as traffic and industry and half came from inside.



DCNA’s Achievements September 2019-2020

SINT MAARTEN/BONAIRE - The Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) just released an informative booklet about DCNA’s achievements during the last year. The challenges nature in Dutch Caribbean faces are immense, but together as a network, DCNA’s six member Protected Area Management Organizations are stronger in their common goal of safeguarding nature in the Dutch Caribbean.

The DCNA is a non-profit foundation and regional network created to support and assist Protected Area Management Organizations on the six Dutch Caribbean islands Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, St. Maarten and St. Eustatius. The DCNA aims to safeguard biodiversity and promote the sustainable management of the natural resources of the islands both on land and in the water for the benefit of present and future generations.

The DCNA works with dedicated nature conservation organizations on Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, St. Eustatius and St. Maarten. By creating a united voice and sharing resources, skills and experience, DCNA is able to strengthen the network and support conservation initiatives throughout the Dutch Caribbean. The DCNA also aims to provide the parks throughout the region with a sustainable funding future.

This has been a challenging year not only for the DCNA but for all of the Protected Area Management Organizations which form a part of our network. Despite this, DCNA has been working hard to ensure that they are able to continue the support provided to the Protected Area Management Organizations to ensure that their critical work of safeguarding nature in the Dutch Caribbean continues.

It has been a busy year at the DCNA, starting with the opening of DCNA’s new Secretariat Headquarters in September 2019 until the work they are now executing helping the Parks respond to the current global COVID-19 crises. A lot has happened including a successful convention, bringing the Protected Area Management Organizations from the six islands, leading nature organizations and scientific institutions from the Netherlands, local stakeholders and youth nature ambassadors in closer collaboration. Other activities included supporting nature education, development of important policy documents, management letters and science communication and outreach.

The booklets were specially developed for all those interested in nature conservation in the Dutch Caribbean and our partners locally and abroad, such as the Dutch Postcode Lottery, Worldwide Fund for Nature the Netherlands (WWF-NL), Vogelbescherming Nederland, IUCN National Committee of the Netherlands, Rabobank and Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality. The first copy of the update was sent to the DCNA Patroness, HRH Princess Beatrix, who is very interested in Dutch Caribbean nature conservation.

DCNA sincerely thanks all DCNA’s members and partners, conservationists, scientists and interested citizens. We achieved this together by sharing our expertise, resources, and knowledge and by working with dedicated partners around the world.

The DCNA team will be continuing with its conservation support activities to its best ability considering the current global pandemic.


Covid-19 infections up by 27% in last week, more than 400 patients in ICU

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of coronavirus cases was above 8,000 for the third day running on Tuesday, but there are signs the second wave is levelling off.

Another 8,182 cases were recorded in the 24 hours to 10am, according to the latest figures from the public health agency RIVM, an increase of 171 on Monday’s figure. On Sunday the RIVM announced 8,184 cases, but the figure was later cut by seven and today’s number is also likely to be adjusted by a small amount.

In the last seven days 55,587 Covid-19 infections were reported to the RIVM, 27% more than in the previous week. It follows six straight weeks in which the number of recorded cases has increased by between 40% and 60%.

‘The number of new recorded cases appears to have increased less rapidly than a week earlier,’ the RIVM said in its weekly press release. ‘This may be an effect of the measures taken since the end of September.

Next week we will be able to see if this trend is sustained.’ However, the positive test rate rose again from 13.6% to 14.4%, partly because 3% fewer tests were carried out in the last week.

Amsterdam highest infection rate

Of the 25 regional safety council areas, Amsterdam-Amstelland had the highest concentration of infections, with 502 per 100,000 residents in the last seven days, followed by Rotterdam-Rijnmond (398) and Utrecht (394).

Zuid-Limburg had the lowest frequency with 119. The number of patients in hospital rose in the last 24 hours from 1738 to 1859, of whom 419 are in intensive care. On Nieuwsuur on Monday Ernst Kuipers, head of the national patient co-ordination centre LCPS, said ICU numbers were likely to keep rising until the start of November.

Another 185 people were reported to have died from Covid-19 in the last week, a weekly increase of 35. Some deaths are not recorded in the figures until several weeks later because of administrative delays.

The reproductive number R, which represents the rate at which the virus is spreading, was calculated at 1.22, a marginal decline from last week’s figure of 1.27. The number needs to be below 1 for infections to fall.

The RIVM estimates that between 92,000 and 161,000 were infected on October 8.



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.



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.



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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