Tighter restrictions could remain in Amsterdam to prevent Covid-19 surge

Amsterdam street largely abandoned due to coronavirus restrictions, 18 March 2020
Amsterdam street largely abandoned due to coronavirus restrictions, 18 March 2020DedMityayDepositPhotosDeposit Photos

Covid-19 restrictions may remain in place in the city of Amsterdam even after other parts of the Netherlands move closer to a full reopening, the city's mayor Femke Halsema said on Tuesday. This would be done with an eye toward preventing a rapid resurgence in Covid-19 infections in the city, which carries greater risks due to its urban density, she said.

"I’m sorry if I am putting a damper on the atmosphere, but we must realize how vulnerable we are," Halsema told the city council in a mixed in-person and video meeting on Tuesday afternoon, according to local broadcaster AT5.

As the number of new infections, deaths and ICU admissions at the hands of Covid-19 ​continues to fall across the Netherlands, members of the city council's more conservative wing are rearing to reopen Amsterdam's catering sector, cultural sites and even its tourism industry, with tens of thousands of hotel beds empty across the city.

"In the coming period we must be extremely cautious about stimulating regional, national and international transit. If we do that too excessively, we run the risk that Amsterdam will become the epicenter of a second wave," Halsema explained in response to the proposals.

The mayor claimed that the risks associated with reopening in Amsterdam are greater than they are in other parts of the country, pointing out that if places such as Friesland, Groningen and Drenthe open up sooner, Amsterdam needs to be more cautious due to its population density. "It may mean that in Amsterdam the risks are too great for further reopening," explained Halsema.

Other council members pointed to the situation in Rotterdam, another densely-populated city, in which the city's mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb had pleaded to reopen the terraces before June 1. Halsema dismissed the comparisons, according to newspaper Parool, asserting that Amsterdam is considerably more packed with people than Rotterdam.

“Rotterdam has nearly 200 thousand fewer inhabitants, but a surface area 100 square kilometers greater; meanwhile our surface area is one-fourth water. In addition, they have 3,000 catering establishments, and we have 8,000. We have an inconceivable shortage of public space, so I urge you to be cautious,” 

“Have real expectations. Because we have to use space very carefully,” added the mayor.