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What’s Happening in the Netherlands Today

Categories: Latest News

Good afternoon readers! It’s a little over ten degrees in Amsterdam this Tuesday afternoon, 12 May 2020, and here’s what’s happening in the Netherlands today.

Coronavirus deaths down again, but mortality remains above average

The number of new infections and deaths from the Covid-19 coronavirus in the Netherlands continues to fall. 54 deaths were reported on Tuesday, down from 63 on Saturday, according to the National Institute for Public Health (RIVM).

Though less than 20 people were reported dead on Sunday and Monday, these numbers usually spike again on Tuesdays, when unreported deaths from the weekend are added to the government’s tally. Even with this taken into account, fatalities have fallen every week for the last month.

An additional 161 people tested positive for the deadly illness on Monday, the lowest daily increase in nearly two months. Across the country, around 500 patients remain in intensive care, and a further 1,000 are receiving regular, non-emergency care.

The southern provinces of Limburg and North Brabant have seen comparatively more hospitalizations than average, according to data from the RIVM. The Netherlands’ first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in the North Brabant city of Tilburg in February.

The organization stated that “new figures match the picture that the measures work.” These lockdown measures, in place since March, are now being rolled back. As of Monday, sports and outdoor activities are allowed again, as long as participants remain 1,5 meters apart from each other. Most contact-based work – such as massage, hairdressing, and alternative medicine – can begin again, and schools and libraries can reopen.

Despite the Netherlands’ apparent success in tackling the coronavirus pandemic, the outbreak caused a spike in mortality since March that hasn’t receded yet. Statistics Netherlands reported on Tuesday that even with the dramatic reduction in daily deaths, five percent more people died in week 18 of this year (April 27 to May 3) than during an average week at the beginning of the year.

Five surfers dead, coastguard searching for bodies

Rescue workers recovered two bodies from the sea near Scheveningen on Tuesday morning, after strong winds and currents swept away a group of daredevils on Monday night.

Two bodies were recovered in the early hours of Tuesday morning, and a third was identified, but could not be immediately pulled from the sea, the Dutch Coast Guard reported on Tuesday afternoon. Two additional victims died on Monday, after being pulled ashore by emergency services.

According to NOS, the victims included a number of experienced surfers. Adverse weather conditions – including unusually thick sea foam – apparently took the group by surprise. Some of the group managed to return to shore, and at least one survivor was taken to hospital.

Four lifeboats and a coast guard helicopter are still on the lookout for the third body. “Unfortunately,” the coast guard wrote on Twitter, “he has not yet been salvaged. The emergency services are working intensively to find this person.”

Dutch cops killed four people last year, fired their weapons 16 times

Dutch police fired their guns just 16 times last year, according to figures from the Public Prosecution Service. These incidents led to 12 injuries and four fatalities.

The figures, released on Monday, show a dramatic decline in police-involved shooting incidents since 2018 when officers fired their weapons 27 times. Injuries also dropped in that period from 26 to just 12, yet deaths rose from three to four.

These incidents are still being investigated, and the Public Prosecution Service said it will assess “whether the use of firearms by police has been lawful.”

Dutch police kill less than half as many people every year as their counterparts in Germany, and a quarter as many as French cops. As such, shootings in this relatively peaceful country tend to make national and international news.

In one of the more shocking incidents of last year, police shot a man dead outside the Central Bank in Amsterdam in February. The man was shot dead after he approached police with a weapon drawn. Witnesses reported hearing at least 20 gunshots ring out, and a passing cyclist was reportedly injured in the crossfire.

“Forms of aggression and intimidation in society require appropriate enforcement action by police officers,” the Public Prosecution Service wrote on Monday. “Investigation into the use of force by police officers with serious consequences must be carried out objectively and carefully.”

‘Deadlier than we thought’ – Health secretary wants to crack down on vaping

Junior Health Minister Paul Blokhuis has told his colleagues in parliament that he’s considering new legislation to restrict the use of e-cigarettes. Blokhuis’ latest push for restriction comes on the back of a report which states that e-cigarettes are “more harmful than previously thought.”

“Dutch public health benefits the most from discouraging the use of e-cigarettes and restricting their use,” Blokhuis told MPs on Monday, according to the Telegraaf. A ban on flavored liquids is just one of the restrictions being considered, the paper reported.

Blokhuis briefed MPs on the e-cigarette issue a day before the Trimbos addiction clinic published a report on the dangers of vaping. Commissioned by Blokhuis’ own health ministry, the report warns that vaping is “more harmful than previously thought,” and can be a “stepping-stone” to regular tobacco products.

Furthermore, the report claims that the long-term health implications of vaping may still be unknown, given that e-cigarettes have only been on the market for little more than 15 years.

In that time, health experts have sounded the alarm over certain chemicals used in e-cigarette liquid, warning that they could cause, among other ailments, a condition known as ‘Popcorn Lung’. Vaping advocates have dismissed these concerns, arguing that modern vape liquid is not made with these chemicals anymore, and that vaping is still less dangerous than smoking.

Blokhuis has long been an opponent of vaping. When the US government moved to restrict some varieties of flavored vape liquid last year, he was reportedly eager to copy the Trump administration’s clampdown.

It is still unclear when and how parliament in the Netherlands will debate vaping legislation, and how tough this legislation will be. The Trimbos report recommends restricting vaping to only the hardest of smokers who haven’t succeeded in quitting by other means.