Focus (2)

Soualiga Newsday Focus (2413)

One in 10 coronavirus patients in hospital develop heart problems

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – One in 10 people admitted to hospital with coronavirus develop heart problems during their stay, according to an international research project involving mainly Dutch patients.

In total, 3,011 patients were involved in the research, 95% of whom were in a Dutch hospital. Over 60% of the patients were male and they had an average age of 67. One third had heart or artery disease before being admitted.

The most common heart issue was cardiac arrhythmia, or an irregular or abnormal heartbeat, but 55 patients developed heart failure and 15 had a heart attack. In addition, 200 patients suffered a lung embolism.

Almost 20% of the patients in the study died during their stay in hospital, of which heart problems was the cause of death in 16 cases.

The research, which will be published in a scientific journal this month, does not show which patients have a greater risk of developing heart problems through coronavirus, said Folkert Asselbergs, who is leading the research at Utrecht University.

‘We are currently very busy with the analysis,’ he said. ‘We hope to be able to say more in the near future.’ The research was carried out using information from 74 hospitals in 13 countries which has been collected as part of the Capacity-Covid register.



Churches told to limit congregations to 30 and ban singing after weekend outcry

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Churches have been told to limit the number of worshippers to 30, hold services online as much as possible and ban singing to conform with new coronavirus restrictions.

The message from justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus follows the uproar over the weekend surrounding the Bible belt village of Staphorst, Overijssel, where the local Protestant church held three services for up to 600 people.

Face masks were discouraged because they muffled the sound of the congregation singing. The decision was defended on Sunday by the village’s mayor, Gerrit Jan Kok, who told RTL Nieuws: ‘If you look at the church and the church services today, everything was within the rules.’

Grapperhaus admitted he had no powers to intervene in church services, but said the limits on public gatherings applied to all organisations, including churches. ‘We are reverting to the agreements we made in March with the branch organisations,’ he said.

‘Everyone is making sacrifices and that includes church organisations. ‘As a government we cannot step inside church buildings, that is a very old constitutional right. But I expect everyone to play their part.’



45% of Dutch companies have applied for coronavirus help

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – So far 45% of Dutch companies with at least two people on the books have applied for government help to stave off the impact of coronavirus, national statistics agency CBS said on Friday.

In total, 187,000 companies had some sort of support by the end of July and the hospitality industry, personal services (such as hairdressers) and the cultural and sports sector have made most claims for assistance.

Between them, the companies applying for help provide 2.6 million jobs. Companies are covered by two main schemes – NOW, to help pay wages and TOGs, to help pay fixed costs.

They can also ask for a delay in paying tax and loans. The CBS figures show companies in Limburg were most likely to ask for help – with a 55% request rate. Amsterdam topped the number of applications on a city by city basis, also with 55%.

The figures also show that 181,000 jobs were lost at companies applying for support under the NOW scheme up to the end of June. Here, events and business services accounted for the bulk of the job losses.

To qualify for NOW support, firms were not allowed to cut the size of their workforces and the CBS says the the jobs that have gone are likely to be freelance or short-term contracts.

By contrast, the support helped ensure the survival of 85% of jobs in the hospitality industry, the CBS said.



New Dutch coronavirus infections head for 4,000 overnight

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A total of 3,831 new coronavirus cases were reported to the Dutch public health institute RIVM in the 24 hours to 10am on Friday morning, up almost 600 on Thursday.

The number of hospital patients has also risen by 42 to 733, including 160 in intensive care, the national patient coordination platform said. The death toll rose by nine – the RIVM has recorded an average of 14 deaths a day over the past seven days, compared with eight in the week earlier period.

Prime minister Mark Rutte said on Monday that he expected the number of positive cases to reach 5,000 on a daily basis in the next few days, before the impact of new restrictions was felt.

The new restrictions include a 10pm closing time for cafes and bars, restrictions on group sizes and an ‘urgent recommendation’ that people wear face masks in public buildings, including shops, museums and government offices.

Most positive cases in the past 24 hours – 352 – were again recorded in Amsterdam. Meanwhile, campaign group Coronavirus Waarheid, which opposes government restrictions and gets funding from far-right party FVD, has said it will start legal action against schools which introduce a face mask requirement.

The measure, currently in the form of a government recommendation, would be ‘illegal’ and ‘abuse’, the group’s founder Willem Engel said.


Higher education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven has said she does not see the need to recommend the use of masks in colleges and universities.

However, a number of students demonstrated on Museumplein in Amsterdam on Friday, calling on the government and universities do more to ensure students can attend physical lectures.

‘Some students are sitting at home for weeks in a row, staring at screens,’ Maarten van Dorp, chairman of student union LSVB told the AD. ‘It is not good for mental health, it is demotivating and everyone is longing for social contact.’



First wave coronavirus death toll tops 10,000, 60% were living in care homes

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Over 10,000 people died of coronavirus in the Netherlands during the first wave, national statistics agency CBS said on Thursday.

The official death toll – based on people who had been tested for the virus – was around 6,100 up to the end of June, and the CBS said earlier the real figure was likely to be around 10,000, based on excess death rates.

The agency has now confirmed that figure, 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.

Some 60% of the victims were living in long-term care homes, either because they were very elderly, had chronic health conditions or were disabled.

The CBS figures, which are still preliminary, also show there was little change in the number of people dying from cancer, heart problems and other diseases during the four months from March to the end of June.



Secondary schools may be added to face mask list, as more pupils stay home

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Cabinet sources have told broadcaster NOS that secondary school pupils will be ‘strongly advised’ to wear face masks in the canteen, assembly rooms and in the corridors but not during lessons.

Tens of thousands of pupils are not currently at school because they are in quarantine or have symptoms, and this means they are missing out on vital education, school heads said earlier this week.

Paediatrician Károly Illy, who chairs the Dutch child medicine association and is a member of the government’s Outbreak Management Team, has also called for the introduction of masks in schools apart from during lessons.

If true, the move would mean another u-turn for the government. On Wednesday, prime minister Mark Rutte said that the government is recommending face masks be worn in all buildings open to the public, except schools, although he did say that advice could change following discussions with experts.

A number of educational establishments have already introduced masks, and there have been several coronavirus outbreaks focused on schools, including at least 55 cases at the Spinoza secondary school in Amsterdam.

The government has also allocated €360m to help schools ensure their ventilation systems are up to scratch.


As things look at the moment, people are being urged to wear masks in all shops, museums, council offices, airports, car parks and petrol stations. They should also be worn in cafes, restaurants, theatres and concert halls apart from when people are seated.

Hair dressers, nail stylists and other contact professions are also being recommended to wear a mask, as are their customers. Now secondary schools are likely to be added to the list.


Speaking during Wednesday’s debate on the government strategy, Rutte said that recommending the use of masks nationwide was the way to ensure a consistent approach.

Retail organisations and MPs had called on the government to bring in a national measure to head off confusion and enforcement issues after the mayors of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Eindhoven said they recommended masks be worn in all public buildings, including supermarkets and museums.

Rutte also said he did not expect the use of masks to contribute greatly to reduce the spread of coronavirus, which topped 3,000 new cases for the second day in a row on Wednesday. The government’s formal advice will be published on Friday at 6pm.



Police arrest seven, seize 50 tonnes of fireworks, in cross border probe

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch and German police have arrested seven people and seized 50 tonnes of fireworks for use in professional shows in a joint cross-border operation, local broadcaster RTV Noord reported.

Three people from the northern Groningen town of Delfzijl were arrested earlier this month, on suspicion of selling professional fireworks to members of the public. They were found with some 700 kilos of fireworks plus a quantity of cash.

That investigation led across the border to Germany, where four Dutch nationals were arrested and over 50 tonnes of fireworks were confiscated. Part of the haul, some two tonnes, were in a van waiting to be shipped, RTV Noord said.

Police put the value of the firework haul at €750,000 and say more arrests cannot be ruled out.



Ministry tells Dolfinarium to make improvements, put education central

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dolfinarium amusement park in Harderwijk has been told to make changes to its shows and improve the living conditions of some animals by wildlife minister Carola Schouten.

‘Doing nothing is not an option,’ Schouten told MPs in a briefing this week. The minister’s comments follow a visit to the park by inspectors at the end of last year.

They reported that while the animals are well cared for, questions remained about the performances the animals were trained to take part in, the tanks they lived in and the interaction with the public, in particular the photo opportunities with dolphins and sea lions.

‘I have urged the Dolfinarium to adapt its educational programme … and the performances,’ the minister said. ‘It is essential that the educational message in the performances is strengthened and that the animals’ natural patterns of behaviour are central,’ Schouten said.

More recommendations are to follow in the autumn and will form part of the zoo permit process, she said.


Pro-animal party PvdD has called for the attraction to be closed down, describing it as a ‘circus at a fixed location’.

Dolfinarium spokesman Taco Rietveld told broadcaster RTL that animal welfare has the highest priority and that the park’s new show fully meets the ministry’s educational demands.

However, the coronavirus has led to a sharp drop in visitor income and major investments have been put on hold, he said.



Dutch baby death rate drops over 20 years, as better screening pays off

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Efforts to reduce the number of babies dying in the Netherlands before their first birthday have had an effect, with the death rate shrinking from 5.1 babies per 1,000 live births to 3.6 over the past 20 years.

Last year, 617 of the 170,000 babies born in the Netherlands died before reaching the age of one, compared with around 1,000 at the turn of the century. In three-quarters of baby deaths, the child dies in the first 28 days of life.

The CBS says the decline is due to better prenatal screening, fewer mothers under the age of 20 – a major risk group – and a drop in the number of multiple births. Recommendations to eliminate cot death would also appear to be paying off, the CBS said.

Between 10 and 20 babies now die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in the Netherlands a year, according to research published in 2018 by the University of Twente.

But in the 1980s the figure was was as high as 190, when the fashion was to put babies to sleep on their stomachs. The Dutch baby death rate is now around the average in Europe, with Estland, Slovenia and Sweden leading the way at two deaths per 1,000 live births or less.



Cigarette firms fined €82m for price fixing, judge rejects gagging order

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch consumers and markets authority ACM has fined four cigarette manufacturers a total of €82m for price fixing between July 2008 and July 2011.

The agency says the four companies – British American Tobacco, JTI, Philip Morris Benelux and Van Nelle Tabak – illegally exchanged information about the future price of cigarettes, so they could adjust their own prices.

The information allowed manufacturers to adjust their prices to their competitors’ prices in advance, said ACM director Martijn Snoep in a press statement. ‘That distorts competition.

The manufacturers knew that exchanging this type of information was at odds with competition rules. However, that did not lead to changes in their behaviour.’ In one email, a JTI employee wrote in an e-mail to a cigarette wholesaler: ‘Attached is BAT’s price list.

As soon as you receive ITN and PMI, please forward them to me immediately.’ In another JTI email quoted by the ACM, an employee wrote: ‘BAT, PMI and ITN now confirmed an RSP [ACM: resale price] increase per mid 2009 of €0.10 on their total portfolio effective as of August/September.

We recommend increasing our entire portfolio by €0.10 as of September 2009 improving our profitability.’ All four companies have filed objections to the fines, the biggest of which went to BAT (€31m).

Three of them had also gone to court in an effort to stop publication of the ACM’s decision, but that request was turned down by a court in Rotterdam.


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