We can stop loneliness while we fight coronavirus: Dutch King

Dutch King Willem-Alexander during the recording of his 2018 Christmas Address. December 2018
Dutch King Willem-Alexander during the recording of his 2018 Christmas Address. December 2018Photo: RVD - Freek van den Berg

The full text of King Willem-Alexander's speech, in English, was also published on NL Times shortly after its conclusion. Byron Mühlberg contributed to the report below.

With a ten-minute speech of encouragement to the nation, Dutch King Willem-Alexander reflected on the sudden changes caused by coronavirus, and expressed his admiration for the nation's healthcare workers, public health professionals, and everyone working hard to keep the country moving forward. He also expressed his concern and empathy for those who feel troubled by the situation personally or professionally, and acknowledged the gravity of the situation's impact on Dutch life.

"In the space of just a few weeks, our daily lives have changed drastically. The coronavirus is affecting all of us," he said to start his speech. "Those who are severely ill and their families are the worst affected. We deeply sympathise with the relatives of those who have died, and with those who have contracted the virus and are currently at home or in hospital," he said.

He praised the work by all healthcare professionals and the country's experts, and stressed that people follow their "necessary" advice even if it is "drastic". "Their one and only aim is to get us through this crisis together as best we can while minimising the risks for those who are vulnerable," he said.

The King also turned his focus especially to the children in the Netherlands, whose normal lives have been disrupted and their contact with their friends cut off after schools were closed. " I know how you must be feeling: excited at first about all the free time you have. But it quickly wears off. Not being able to go to school. Or to football or ballet class. Birthday parties that won’t take place. That’s quite hard," he said

"It’s quite a challenge for all of us," he said.

"Thankfully, there is still a lot we can do. We all know someone in our vicinity who will be needing people to look out for them. This is something we need to get through together. Many people realise that. They are keeping an eye out for others and helping out when and where they can," he continued.

"We cannot stop the coronavirus. What we can do is stop the loneliness virus!"​ he emphasized. It continues on the theme of combatting loneliness and isolation, a key aspect of the his annual Christmas speech in 2019.

"Let’s make sure together that nobody feels abandoned. Thankfully, even when you can’t visit people anymore, we have many ways to communicate: online, by phone or by post. And the Netherlands wouldn’t be the Netherlands if people didn’t spontaneously offer their help," he said. 

The King asked offered suggestions like offering assistance to neighborhood care centers, volunteering to join a helpline, asking students to help with childcare for the parents tied up by the country's most vital work positions.

"Coronavirus has unleashed an incredible amount of positive energy, creativity and public-spiritedness. These are the qualities we will be needing not only for the time being, but certainly also later on should things get even more challenging."

He concluded his speech with the helpful message that despite how strange and memorable this year will be, he hopes that "feelings of solidarity and pride will prevail and bring us all closer, as we get through this most difficult of times together."

The King, Queen Maxima and their three daughters are also practicing social distancing at this time, not leaving their home and not making contact with other people. They visited Lech in Austria for their winter holiday, where five people have been diagnosed with the virus, according to government information service RVD. The King and Queen were also in Indonesia recently, for a State Visit. 

"In such cases, the RIVM recommends avoiding new contacts and limiting existing contacts for two weeks. This means that someone is not ill should stay home as much as possible unit it is certain this person is not infected," the RVD said. "The Royal Family does not have any health complaints."

The King's speech was the third time this week he expressed his gratitude for the professionals working under severe strain in the Netherlands. "Healthcare professionals are working all out to combat coronavirus. Our thoughts are with them and their patients, and with everyone in our Kingdom who is under intense pressure at present: business owners worried about their company, teachers working on remote teaching methods, and public leaders doing whatever is necessary. The widespread solidarity is heartwarming, if only because of the many helping hands reaching out to the elderly. Thank you!" he said earlier this week.