A bite through a sour Dutch apple

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Jascha de Pater. (Photo: Personal archive, Demokracija archive; Montage: Matic Štojs Lomovšek)

Decision making in Dutch politics concerning the Coronavirus pandemic has been a very slow process. When a decision was finally made it was always so full of compromises that it cannot be called resolute action. Furthermore, national politics shifts many responsibilities on to the municipalities, the business owners – such as stores and café’s — and the “common decency” of people.  When these soft measurements turned out to be ineffective and the hospitals began to flood with Corona patients in need of intensive care, harder measurements had to be taken. This was a partial lockdown of which nobody really understood the exact rules due to conflicting public announcements.

When these measurements were finally taking effect, they were slowly dismantled due to the pressure – of mostly business owners – to resume public life again. People could travel and go out to café’s and nightclubs (although with some extra rules) again. Recently the Corona infections have been rising exponentially and we are currently dealing with the second wave.

During which, the same slow and moderate measurements process is starting again. Only this time, mouth protector masks came into the picture more assertively. Meaning, they have to be worn not only in the public transport, but in the public spaces such as stores as well (if the store owners demand it, of course). Despite the mentioned, the general public on the streets still seems to be way too relaxed about it. This could be due to RIIVM’s (Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu – National Institute for Health and Environment) early and too fast conclusions that the masks were seen as ineffective. During their decision-making process of the first wave, they advised the government and this is why masks were not that important within that time frame. Now, however their opinion had taken a new turn and they seem to change their mind about it, which naturally reflects within the current measures which are, still not binding. Reason for that being that wearing the masks cannot be obligatory because of national law which would be in conflict with such potential measurements. Long story short, government decision-making on mask wearing obligations, keeps shifting towards the store owners. The latter are under the spotlight, as the government is blindly expecting them to give a final call on customer’s mask wearing “obligations”. Moral of the story – should we trust our mask-wearing instincts?

Last but not least, we cannot move pass the topic of the testing. During the first wave it has been announced that there were surprisingly not enough tests, so most of the people that got sick (and were showing only mild symptoms) were advised not to be tested. Only individuals that were submitted directly to the hospital (due to severe complications and symptoms) and healthcare workers were actually tested. Underestimations of the virus were therefore unavoidable.

For a while, authorities were also of belief that the country ran out of tests. Later on, it, of course, turned out this was not the case. Another common topic in terms of testing is also the authorities not buying the tests from large medical laboratory but instead keep ordering it from multiple research labs all over the country which caused an additional inefficiency. It is only now, that they started ordering tests in bulk. 

As far as the general public opinion goes, it seems to be that everyone is fed-up with the rules. Not only because it prevents people from getting back to their so called normality, but also because the measures seem to be ineffective. Latest numbers of virus infections no not seem to be put on hold. Drastic measures therefore seem to be unavoidable. Combined with the frustrations of the people, they seem to be the only way (for now) that could bring daily lives back on track.  As the Dutch saying goes:Door de zure appel (heen) bijten” –  Let us bite thorough the sour apple.

 

About the author:

Jascha de Pater is a Dutch electronics engineer. He lives in Amsterdam.

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