Netherlands on lock down: No traffic jams as schools, businesses remain closed

Playground outside a school in Amsterdam Oost
Playground outside a school in Amsterdam OostNL TimesNL Times

The Netherlands awoke to a country that has largely come to a stand still on Monday morning. With businesses, schools and daycares largely ordered shut until April 6th, the roads and public transit were very quiet. As a result, both travelers association ANWB and public works department Rijkswaterstaat reported no traffic jams this morning - an unprecedented situation, NU.nl reports.

Monday mornings usually see around 400 kilometers of traffic jams on Dutch roads by 8:00 a.m. "Now that was about four kilometers. And then these were traffic jams due to collisions or blowouts of trucks," traffic reader Cees Quax said to NOS. 

The roads were already quiet on Friday, when many people in the Netherlands started working from home. But on Sunday, Prime Minster Mark Rutte announced that schools, kindergartens, and daycares will be closed from Monday. Only the children of employees with so-called "vital professions" can still count on childcare until at least April 6th. Restaurants, sports clubs, sex clubs, saunas and cafes are also closed from Monday.

In the coming days, the local safety offices will determine where the children of parents with vital professions will be cared for. This applies to children between the ages of 0 and 12 years with both parents working in a vital profession - professions crucial to keep society running during the coronavirus, like healthcare workers, education workers, public transit workers, other municipal services like garbage collection, and journalism.

A full list of vital professions can be found here, though it may be updated. Politicians in The Hague are discussing the matter on Monday, after criticism that the funeral industry and cleaners, among others, were not on the list, NOS reports. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sports told the broadcaster that more information about the possible expansion of the list will come "during the day".

For Monday and Tuesday, this specific group of parents can take their children to the centers ands schools they normally use. Exactly how many children are involved, is not yet clear, Monique Vreeburg of the Sector Organization for Social Childcare said to NU.nl. "The safety offices will look at which locations these children will be cared for in the next three weeks. This is all done in consultation with the municipality and [municipal health service] GGD."

How childcare workers will know whether parents who bring their child to childcare actually have a vital profession, will also be discussed, she said. "That is an important question, but the childcare workers cannot check it. On Monday and Tuesday, we assume that everyone is working on good faith," Vreeburg said.

Patrou, the largest childcare organization in the Netherlands, told NOS that children will not be refused on Monday, regardless of what type of job their parents have. "We are all in a completely new reality today, so it really is a bit of a search," director Jeanine Lemmens said to the broadcaster. "What I can say about one or two parents in vital professions is that we will not be very strict about that requirement today. We are going to learn what is happening today and there is some room at least at the moment."

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