Covid-19 diagnoses in NL jump to 503; fifth death

Covid-19 - Sign at the Etos location on Dappermarkt in Amsterdam Oost stating that they have no masks or disinfectant gel, 2 March 2020
Covid-19 - Sign at the Etos location on Dappermarkt in Amsterdam Oost stating that they have no masks or disinfectant gel, 2 March 2020NL TimesNL Times

Another 121 people in the Netherlands tested positive for the new coronavirus, bringing the total Covid-19 diagnoses in the country up to 503, public health institute RIVM said on Wednesday. A 68-year-old person became the fifth Covid-19 fatality in the Netherlands. This patient had underlying health problems, the RIVM said.

Wednesday's increase in Covid-19 cases is higher than the 61 new diagnoses on Tuesday and 56 new cases on Monday. According to RIVM, the increase partly has to do with hospital testing done in Noord-Brabant between March 6 and 8, the results of which came in on Wednesday. A total of 1,097 hospital workers were tested in the province, and 3.9 percent were diagnosed with the coronavirus. The percentages differ per hospital. 200 patients were also tested, and an average of 9 percent had the virus. The people who were tested were already showing symptoms.

Of the total 503 Covid-19 patients in the Netherlands, 199 contracted the virus abroad. In 92 cases, the source of the virus is not yet known - the majority of these patients live in Noord-Brabant. 

Noord-Brabant is still the Dutch province most affected by the virus, counting 223 of the total Covid-19 infections. The mayors of the province's largest cities Den Bosch, Eindhoven and Tilburg announced that they are canceling all events with a thousand attendees or more for the coming period, in order to curb the spread of the virus. They also called on residents to refrain from social interactions for the next week.

According to mayor Jack Mikkers of Den Bosch, he and his colleagues strove for a balance between curbing the spread of the virus and allowing the Noord-Brabant economy to run as much as possible. But more far-reaching measures may need to be taken in the future, he said. 

Previously the RIVM also called on Noord-Brabant residents to stay at home if they have even mild cold-like symptoms. And the province called on its residents to work from home as much as possible. 

Olympic committee NOC*NSF called on the sports world to heed the call of the Noord-Brabant safety offices and cancel all events in the province up to and including Monday, March 16th. Football association KNVB therefore decided to postpone all amateur football matches in the province for this week. 

Horse show jumping and dressage event Indoor Brabant will continue as planned, with a few adjustments, the organization announced to the outrage of many. The event attracts tens of thousands of attendees in Den Bosch each year. A large part of critical remarks made on Brabants Dagblad's social media pages focus on the fact that it is "probably all about the money", and that "the elite" can still have their parties despite the emerging crisis in the province.

"Stay at home with a cough, a lot of people work from home, schools are half empty, a lot of events are canceled, and yet this will continue. Dear people who decided this, I really hope that you can still face yourself in the mirror in two weeks," one person wrote on Facebook, according to the local newspaper. Another: "They cannot cancel this, there are people with a lot of money in the stands, they will not take away their hobbies."

Director Marcel Hunze of Indoor Brabant does not think he is making a mistake in not canceling the event, he said to Brabants Dagblad. "In fact, I think we are sending a good signal. We listen to experts. They say: no events with more than a thousand visitors and we act accordingly. A maximum of one thousand spectators are welcome per part of the day from Thursday. No, we absolutely do not see this measure as a risk of further coronavirus spread. We have 60 thousand square meters of space in the Brabanthallen, so people are not close together."

The STRP Festival in Eindhoven early next month has been postponed due to the coronavirus. The organizers said in a statement that the decision to pull the plug now was made mainly with the health of attendees and residents in mind. The advice of Eindhoven mayor John Jorritsma to cancel all large events at least in the coming week also played a role. A new date for the art and technology festival will be announced soon. 

A department of the Padua residential care facility in Tilburg was placed on lockdown on Wednesday after two residents were diagnosed with Covid-19, RTL Nieuws reports Another three residents and four employees have symptoms that may indicate a coronavirus infection, but they have not yet been tested. To prevent further contamination, no visitors will be allowed in the department for the time being. Residents are also not allowed to leave the ward unless there is serious medical need. 

According to the RIVM, around 4 percent of hospital workers in Noord-Brabant may be infected with the coronavirus. The virus is aggravating the already existing staff shortages in the Netherlands, as more care workers have to call in sick, leaving still-healthy colleagues to deal with the increased demand for care, organization NU'19 said on Wednesday. 

CBL, the professional group for supermarkets in the Netherlands, called on customers to use their debit cards for payments, instead of cash, as much as possible. According to the organization, paying in cash often involves physical contact with the cashier, and due to the coronavirus that is undesirable. If customers really have to use cash, the CBL asks that they put the money on the cash register. Cashiers will also be instructed to put down customers' change, instead of handing it to them, and avoid physical contact as much as possible. 

Furniture store chain IKEA decided in consultation with the RIVM to close the Smaland playgrounds at its stores in Utrecht, Breda, Eindhoven, Barendrecht, and Heerlen for the time being. "These are areas where the coronavirus is widespread," an IKEA spokesperson said to The playgrounds will close because they are the only area in store where children may be without their parents. "In the rest of the store they are with their parents, who can take the right personal hygiene measures."

The spokesperson added that more playgrounds could close at a later date. "We keep a close eye on the situation and look into possible measures day by day." Extra cleaning is already being done at all IKEA stores in the Netherlands, the spokesperson said.