Coronavirus hits more Dutch businesses as stocks fall, KLM cuts flights
The growing severity of coronavirus in the Netherlands is continuing to rattle investors, and taking a toll on the country's businesses. By the end of trading on Friday, the AEX Index at Euronext Amsterdam closed 3.9 percent lower than a day earlier, and 15.6 percent down from the record high of 629.23 set on Valentine's Day.
One patient in the Netherlands, an 86-year-old man, died from the illness, as announced on Friday. He was one of the 128 people to be diagnosed with coronavirus to date, with thousands more having been tested for the virus.
The AEX Index had a momentary rebound on news that the country's economic affairs minister, Eric Wiebes, was confident in the long-term Dutch economy even if it takes a brief "beating." At a press conference following the weekly meeting of cabinet ministers and state secretaries, he said, "In China, there are customers and suppliers of Dutch companies. The latest contamination figures there seem to indicate that things are going in the right direction, but that is unpredictable. We are prepared for anything."
The supply chain issues are indeed causing problems though, as about 750 companies have applied for permission to reduce work hours for staff members, who then collect a social benefit payment in the interim. Of that group, 187 firms were permitted to do so, representing nearly two thousand employees, while 80 businesses were rejected.
Businesses who can prove their output fell by 20 percent due to a sudden calamity, including the coronavirus outbreak, are most likely to win approval from the Ministry of Social Affairs. Their furloughed staff receive a welfare payment to cover lost wages for about six months.
KLM also decided to cancel about 40 round trips to and from Italy next week, starting on Saturday, broadcaster NOS reported. It represents over 25 percent of KLM's total weekly flights to the country. The affected destinations include Bologna, Milan, Rome and Venice, and more flights could be scrapped later.
The Dutch flag carrier also waived its re-booking fees for passengers who wish to delay their trip due to the outbreak. The airline's subsidiary Transavia also made a similar decision to cut flights to Italy over the upcoming six weeks.
The government saw no reason to shut down airports, or to issue an order to cancel large national events. "Utrecht Centraal and Schiphol are permanent national events. We will not close them either," Prime MInister Mark Rutte said, adding that cities could make the decision for themselves if an event should be halted to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
"I hope that we stay in the containment phase for as long as possible, and naturally I prefer that we never move on to the next phase," Rutte said.
"The most important thing in this phase is to tackle the public health matter, and to prevent people from having to deal with this miserable virus," Wiebes said. "The consequences for the Treasury and the economy are, in my opinion, secondary."