Calls for anti-racism protesters to self-quarantine; Unnecessary, says virologist, A'dam mayor

Thousands in Amsterdam turn out in support of Black Lives Matter after the death of George Floyd in America. June 1, 2020
Thousands in Amsterdam turn out in support of Black Lives Matter after the death of George Floyd in America. June 1, 2020NL Times / Byron MühlbergNL Times

VVD leader Klaas Dijkhoff and Marianne Schuurmans, mayor of Haarlemmermeer and chairman of Veiligheidsregio Kennemerland, both called on everyone who participated in a protest in Amsterdam against racism and police brutality to self-quarantine for two weeks, in case they caught the coronavirus. Some 5 thousand people were gathered on Amsterdam's Dam Square for the protest on Monday. 

"The images from Amsterdam not only make me angry, but also very worried. If anyone spread the virus there, we are back to square one," Dijkhoff said on Twitter. "If you were there, please report it to the GGD and go into home isolation for two weeks."

"I am concerned about the large number of people on Dam square during the demonstration," Schuurmans, also VVD, tweeted. "If you were there, stay home for two weeks! When you get a cold or other symptoms, call the GGD and have yourself tested. Take your responsibility."

Mayor Femke Halsema of Amsterdam understands the negative reactions, but thinks that the call for protesters to quarantine goes too far. "Then that should also apply to everyone who was too close to others in a park," she said to NOS. She also does not think that protesters without symptoms should be tested, because the test capacity does not allow this. 

Virologist Menno de Jong raised concerns that the protest could be a "super spreading event". But virologist Mariet Feltkamp of Leiden University Medical Center disagrees. According to her, it is a risk if large groups of people are closer than 1.5 meters together for a long period of time. But because the demonstration happened outside in the sun and the wind, the virus carrying aerosols and droplets will have blown away quickly, Feltkamp said to NOS. It also makes a difference that most demonstrators wore masks. The current low number of coronavirus infections in the Netherlands also lowers the risk. "If this had happened in March, I would be much more concerned."

Maurice van den Bosch of Amsterdam hospital OLVG called the lack of social distancing at the protest a slap in the face of healthcare workers. "Care workers worked their fingers to the bone day and night. We know that large group gatherings, without respect for social distancing, are the risk of spreading Covid-19," he said on Twitter. 

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