No mass coronavirus outbreaks linked to BLM protests

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

The massive demonstrations against racist police brutality held in Amsterdam and Rotterdam at the start of this month have not yet led to a significant coronavirus outbreak, the local GGD health services said to newspaper AD. The virus' maximum incubation period of 14 days is already up for the protest on Dam Square on June 1 and ends on Wednesday for the protest on the Erasmus Bridge on June 3.

So far two protesters with symptoms contacted the GGD in Amsterdam. One of them tested negative for Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, and the results for the second protester are not yet in. "We will take stock later this week, but as yet there are no indications of a major outbreak," a spokesperson for GGD Amsterdam said to the newspaper.

The GGD Rotterdam also sees no indications that the protest on the Erasmus Bridge was a source of infection. "At the moment, the event has not yet caused additional spreading," a spokesperson said to AD.

Incidentally, the two large cities did see an increase in the number of coronavirus cases after the demonstrations. In the two weeks before the demonstration, Amsterdam had 52 and 46 new cases per week, and 76 and 109 in the two weeks after. Rotterdam went from 46 in the week before the protest, to 81 the week after and 105 last week, according to the newspaper.

This could also be linked to the fact that coronavirus testing opened to anyone with symptoms in the week of the protests, instead of just select groups. But according to AD, the number of infections remained "strikingly stable" in the rest of the Netherlands during that period.

The GGD Rotterdam said it is investigating the cause of the increase, but at this stage the demonstration does not seem to be the culprit. There are many indications that there were "different clusters" in the city, a spokesperson said.

For six weeks, Zuid-Holland has been the province with the most residents affected by Covid-19 in the Netherlands. Since testing opened to everyone with symptoms on June 1, nearly 32 percent of positive tests came from the province. Zuid-Holland also accounted for 44 percent of coronavirus-related hospitalizations this month.