Focus (2)

Soualiga Newsday Focus (2427)

Number of teenage mothers in the Netherlands halves in 10 years

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of teenage mothers in the Netherlands has fallen for the fifth year in a row, and the total has halved in 10 years, according to an analysis of CBS figures by news service LocalFocus.

On January 2020 1,643 young women under the age of 20 had at least one child, almost half the 2010 total of 3,183, NOS quoted LocalFocus as saying.

The decline, according to sexual health organisation Rutgers, is due to having good access to contraception and the Netherlands’ ‘long tradition of providing sex education’.

The number of teenage mothers fell in every province, LocalFocus said. The province of Flevoland had the highest proportion of teenage mothers at five per 1,000.

This could be explained by the large number of Antilleans living in Flevoland, who have a tradition of early marriage, NOS said.

In terms of cities, Rotterdam, The Hague and Almere also had a relatively large proportion of young mums. According to figures from 2017, the Netherlands had the lowest rate of teenage mothers in the EU.

The average age a Dutch woman has her first baby is currently around 30.



Cafe owners lose legal bid to have coronavirus closure lifted

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A judge in The Hague has rejected a call by a group of café and bar owners who had gone to court in an effort to have the coronavirus closure overturned.

Ministers last Tuesday ordered all cafes, bars, and restaurants to close for at least four weeks in an effort to get the growth in coronavirus cases under control. The owners, some 68 in total, asked the court to allow cafes and bars to reopen immediately, saying that the compulsory closure is excessive and disproportionately affecting the hospitality industry.

During the hearing, the government’s lawyer said ministers recognized that the measure is hurting a lot of people but said there is no alternative. The judge will publish the motivation for the ruling in two weeks’ time but said the actual decision should be published now, given the urgency of the situation.

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.



Shortage of social housing is increasing and rents are rising fast: Woonbond

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The waiting lists for social housing in the Netherlands are still rising and people are spending a larger proportion of their income on rent and related costs, according to an analysis by lobby group Woonbond.

The organisation says the number of rent-controlled properties in the Netherlands has dropped by 108,000 over the past five years, while waiting lists are over 10 years in Amsterdam, and nearing 10 years in Utrecht.

In Amsterdam, for example, an average of 271 people react every time a rent-controlled property comes on the market, up from 180 in 2014.

In The Hague, demand is even greater – with 301 people reacting every time a social housing property is released. Tenants too are spending a larger proportion of their income on housing – up from 34% in 2009 to 38% in 2018, according to CBS figures.

And while social housing rents have gone up 26% over the past 10 years, rents in the non-rent-controlled sector have risen 44%. Social housing has a maximum monthly rent of €737 and is generally only available to households with an income of less than €39,000.


‘Cabinet policy over the past 10 years has focused on reducing the size of housing corporations and boosting the commercial rental sector,’ spokesman Zenno Winkels told the AD.

‘Tenants are the victims of this.’ The Woonbond wants the points system, used to calculate rents in the social housing sector, to be extended to non-rent-controlled properties as well.

It also thinks the income limits for social housing should be increased. According to government figures, some 60% of the 7.5 million homes in the Netherlands are owner occupied.

Private landlords, including investment companies own 8% and the rest are in the hands of the country’s housing associations. Last week, housing platform Pararius said rents in the non-rent-controlled sector had dropped marginally for the first time in six years.



No plans to take more coronavirus measures at schools, minister says

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The government has no plans as yet to introduce extra rules to improve the safety of teachers in schools, despite the surge in coronavirus cases, education minister Arie Slob told the Telegraaf in an interview.

‘It is very important that children get as many lessons at school as possible,’ Slob told the paper. ‘And according to the Management Outbreak Team, it is safe to do so.’

Unions have called for more focus on the problems caused by coronavirus in schools and a survey by teaching union Leraren in Actie found that 80% of teachers are worried about the situation at work.

In particular, full classes make it often difficult to keep to the 1.5 metre rule, teachers say. There have been coronavirus infections at 342 of the 648 Dutch secondary schools since August, according to research published this weekend by Nieuwsuur and BD Dataplan.

The figure is based on an analysis of public information and school communications. Of the 342 schools, 44 had more than 10 cases of coronavirus and seven schools so far have closed for a time because of the outbreak.

How are Dutch schools dealing with Covid? Schools in the north reopen on Monday after the autumn half term holidays, followed a week later by schools in the rest of the country.

While the new lockdown included the closure of cafes and bars, and further restrictions on group sizes, schools were not affected. This, said prime minister Mark Rutte at the press conference, is because they are too important to close.



More than half of secondary schools have had a coronavirus case: Nieuwsuur

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – There have been coronavirus infections at 342 of the 648 Dutch secondary schools since August, according to research by Nieuwsuur and BD Dataplan.

The figure is based on an analysis of public information and school communications. Of the 342 schools, 44 had more than 10 cases of coronavirus and seven schools so far have closed for a time because of the outbreak.

How are Dutch schools dealing with Covid? Schools in the north reopen next week after the autumn half term holidays, and a week later in the rest of the country. The impact of coronavirus on schools is leading to more lessons being cancelled and pupils being sent home, according to teaching union CNV Onderwijs.

But despite the problems, most teachers are keen to continue with physical lessons, the union said. While the new lockdown included the closure of cafes and bars, and further restrictions on group sizes, schools were not affected.

This, said prime minister Mark Rutte at the press conference, is because they are too important to close.



New coronavirus cases top 8141 in 24 hours, lockdown ‘could last until December’

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of newly notified coronavirus cases in the Netherlands hit 8,141 in the 24 hours to Saturday morning, according to figures from national health institute RIVM.

The new figure could indicate the number of new infections is starting to level off, although it will take several days to establish if this is the case because of time lags in reporting.

The number of hospital patients rose by 15 to 1,568, of whom 352 are in intensive care. A further 28 people have died after testing positive for the virus, taking the daily average over the past week to 24.

This is up seven on the previous week. Amsterdam, again, accounts for by far the most positive tests, with 683. RIVM virologist Jaap van Dissel told broadcaster NOS on Saturday that the partial lockdown introduced by the Dutch government earlier this week could run until December.

‘If you do the calculations, you can expect a longer period in which the numbers are high,’ he said. ‘It would be guessing to say how long that could be, but we are taking the fact that it could be December into account.’



Excess death rate is still up slightly, but is not increasing as infections grow

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Slightly more people are dying in the Netherlands than would have been expected for the time of year, but the number of excess deaths remains low and is not increasing, according to new figures from national statistics office CBS.

Experts say the number of excess deaths could indicate the true number of people dying from coronavirus, because the figure also includes people who have not tested positive for the disease.

In the two weeks to 11 October, 300 more people died than would have been expected in a normal year, the CBS said. Officially 210 people died of coronavirus during the same period, although the true figure could be higher because of reporting delays, the CBS said.


The excess death rate has now been slightly higher than expected for three weeks, the CBS said, but is extremely small compared with the height of the pandemic, when thousands of people died.

In particular, the death rate is higher among people living in nursing homes, where the infection rate is increasing, according to figures from public health institute RIVM. In March and April, nursing home residents accounted for 60% of Covid-19 related deaths.


The CBS said at the beginning of this month over 10,000 people died of coronavirus in the Netherlands during the first wave. The official death toll – based on people who had been tested for the virus – was around 6,100 up to the end of June.

The October figure is based on death certificates which had been completed by a doctor. In total, 10,067 died from coronavirus up to the end of June, of whom 53% were male, and nearly all were over the age of 75, the CBS said.



Terrorism tsar warns about far right violence, as MPs and journalists face abuse

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch counter-terrorism unit NCTV is warning that there is a continuing risk of extreme right-wing violence in the Netherlands, as the number of online threats in particular rise.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, ‘people who have long distrusted the government, science and traditional media may find their views confirmed in conspiracy theories and misinformation,’ the NCTV says in its latest update.

Besides the relatively broad, mixed activist upper layer, ‘there is a radical undercurrent with sometimes extremist behavior, such as harassing journalists and politicians or intimidating police officers.’

The new generation of far-right agitators, who grew up with internet, will not join traditional far right groups, but gather extremist ideas online, the agency said. ‘It is precisely the limited attraction of known small right-wing extremist groups that can lead to the online radicalisation of Dutch people under the radar.

This can contribute to the development of a social ecosystem, in which the threshold for discussing violent actions is low.’ The warning was issued shortly after parliamentary chairwoman Khadija Arib said she is extremely concerned about the rise in online attacks made against politicians, and the daily demonstrations outside parliament.

In the first eight months of this year, politicians have made 44 reports and 17 formal police complaints about threats, Arib told Nieuwsuur on Thursday evening. Parliamentary staff and visitors often now avoid using the main entrance to the complex because of the ‘ugly atmosphere’ outside.

The demonstrators ‘harass MPs, touch them, and they jeer at journalists and politicians,’ Arib said.


Broadcaster NOS has also said it will stop using outside broadcast vans with its logo because of the verbal attacks on journalists. ‘It is not just about what has happened, but about the fear of what might happen,’ NOS editor in chief Marcel Gelauff told current affairs show EenVandaag.

NOS journalists are no longer allowed to cover demonstrations without security guards, he said. ‘It is shocking how low we have sunk,’ he said. ‘Everything has changed in such a short space of time.’

Far right political parties Forum voor Democracie and the PVV have repeatedly attacked the media for being ‘part of the elite’, but FvD leader Thierry Baudet told Nieuwsuur on Thursday he considered it ‘extremely unlikely‘ that his criticism had led to the current situation.



Mixed marksheet for Dutch schools from international parents

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – International parents of children at schools and after-school care organisations have mixed experiences of how the Netherlands is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

Some readers of DutchNews are deeply worried and even considering leaving, while others compare the situation favourably with what is happening in their home country.

Silvia D’Ascoli, whose son attends a primary school in The Hague, said that she and other parents there are ‘very concerned about the current policy by public authorities that does not require teachers to test negative before returning to school’ after a coronavirus infection.

She was worried that if staff return to school without official negative tests, this could expose other staff and children.

‘To make sure that teachers who previously contracted COVID-19 are not contagious any more upon returning to school is a regular practice in many other countries (European and non-European), where people in crucial professions like teachers, medical personnel, and carers in various sectors, are required to test negative to COVID-19 before being allowed back to their workplace,’ she said.

She added that different practices followed by after-school care organisations and schools result in a ‘very confusing’ situation for parents where classes could be sent home from school but apparently allowed to attend after-school care.

‘If the rules in schools are not tightened, the risk is that our children come back home bringing the coronavirus and, while the children may not display symptoms or have a very quick illness, they are likely to make their parents and the rest of their families (very) sick,’ she added.

‘I believe that, if no national approach is taken on these issues, and if more is not invested into prevention and risk-management, the Netherlands won’t come out of this pandemic very easily, and many people will pay…either with their jobs or with their health.’


Her concerns are shared by Andrei, a software engineer based in Amsterdam. He compares the situation in the Netherlands unfavourably with his home country, Romania, where he believes there is more online learning and a more responsible attitude to infections in young people.

‘They treat children as if they were immune [here], but they’re not,’ he says. ‘Recent studies show children play a significant role in transmission, and some can get very sick.

They force parents to expose their children to the virus and bring it home. If parents want to keep their children home, they face large fines and court action. We’re considering leaving the county, in part because of this.’

Alessandro Nati, who has a two-year-old at daycare in Rotterdam, said that privacy rules seem to mean that parents may not be given full information about the risk level their child faces and the level of contact with people who have tested positive.

‘Last week I went to pick up my son and I was greeted by one of his teachers who had been absent for a bit and she told me how great it was after she was healed from coronavirus,’ he told DutchNews. ‘I have tested negative, so it is a happy ending, but to be honest we were quite disappointed.’

Doing better

For some expat parents, the Dutch situation is better than in their home country. Carole Glaubitz, who recently moved to Den Bosch with her two children of 9 and 10 after experiencing the early lockdown in the UK, said she is pleased that schools and sporting facilities are still open.

‘We adhere to a strict hygiene routine, the children remove their shoes, wash their hands on entering the house and all clothes are washed on a daily basis and children have a daily bath,’ she said.

‘Both my children have been wearing masks to and from school for the past couple of weeks.’ Some readers felt more neutral.

Jennette René de Vreede, who lives in Sweden but is visiting family in Belgium, pointed out that there is more support in Sweden for families that have to quarantine: ‘I don’t see big differences between these three countries,’ she told DutchNews.

‘I’m very happy with the decisions in Sweden…that younger children could go to school and continue their leisure activities, but with clear directions. The provisions in Sweden also mean that parents have sick pay to stay home and care for sick children, and the first unpaid sick day has been waived.’

She added that she does, however, see a lot of sloppy mask wearing in Belgium and notices people keeping less of a distance when wearing them. ‘Everyone over the age of 15 is responsible for ensuring we don’t have a second wave, although children under 15 know about it but are not made responsible,’ she added. ‘I’m glad about that.’



Quarantine rules widely ignored, survey shows, as new infections touch 8,000

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Support for the government’s basic measures to combat coronavirus, such as hand washing and social distancing, remains high but confidence in the overall approach has fallen, according to the latest survey by public health institute RIVM.

The survey, conducted ahead of Tuesday’s decision to impose a partial lockdown in the Netherlands, showed that while 84% of people thought the government was trying to do its best, just 57% thought the measures were being properly explained.

And only three in 10 said they stayed home if they had mild symptoms or had been in an area considered to be risky, despite the guidelines. ‘Organising the practicalities remains the main obstacle to self-isolation,’ the researchers said.

Six in 10 said they would stay home if a someone else in the household tests positive but only half said they would stay in if contacted by a health worker as part of a track and trace programme.

And only four in five said they would stay home if they had tested positive for the virus. Health minister Hugo de Jonge slammed people who ignore the recommendations to self-isolate, saying ‘advice is there to be followed.’

‘If the health board tells you to sit on your backside on the sofa, that is what you do,’ he told reporters after the Friday afternoon cabinet meeting. ’Don’t start thinking you know better than the health board.’

Positive tests

The number of positive coronavirus tests registered with the public health institute RIVM reached just three short of 8,000 by 10am on Friday morning. The increase takes the number of positive tests over the past week to an average of 7,171, compared with 4,837 in the week earlier period.

The number of hospital patients rose by 27 overnight to 1,533, of whom 345 are being treated in intensive care wards. The RIVM survey also showed the number of people who are worried about catching coronavirus has almost doubled from 10% in the previous survey six weeks ago to 18% now.


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