Trade unions are furious about the government's decision to scrap the so-called dismissal fine from the coronavirus aid package for businesses, warning that this will lead to mass layoffs. According to Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the cabinet is still discussing this matter with the unions. The scrapping of this fine is not set in stone, but at the same time it is "important that the dismissal fine does not continue in this form," Rutte said in a parliamentary debate on the coronavirus on Wednesday, the Telegraaf reports.
Persons infected with the coronavirus or who had contact with an infected person may be forced into quarantine, Minister Hugo de Jonge of Public Health said in a parliamentary debate regarding the government's new coronavirus strategy on Wednesday. While the Minister hopes "not to make use of it", there is legal basis to force someone into quarantine he said.
According to an international model, 12.9 percent of all deaths in the Netherlands are Covid-19 related, RIVM director Jaap van Dissel said to parliament on Wednesday. That puts the Netherlands under Spain, Belgium, France, Italy and the United Kingdom when it comes to coronavirus mortality, NOS reports.
Another 84 coronavirus related deaths and 39 hospitalizations were reported to the Dutch health authorities, public health institute RIVM said on Thursday. That brings the total number of Covid-19 deaths to 5,288 and total hospitalizations to 11,192.
Of the new deaths reported to the RIVM, at least 22 people died on Wednesday. The other fatalities range back as far as March 6. Of the new hospitalizations, at least 21 happened on Wednesday, with the rest stretching back as far as March 15.
"Massive events" can only be held again in the Netherlands once there is a vaccine against the coronavirus, Minister Hugo de Jonge of Public Health said in a letter to parliament regarding the government's step-by-step plan to relax the Covid-19 lockdown.
"For the last step, the massive events with a national quality, we can not yet give a date," the Minister wrote. "Actually, that is only possible once there is a vaccine, and no one knows how long that will take. Of course we hope for soon, but a year or more is very likely."
Dutch parliamentarians want a number of additional conditions attached to a coronavirus aid package for KLM. Groenlinks wants the airlines' financial partners to help pay for the aid package. Various parties want high-earning pilots to accept salary cuts. And a majority agrees that KLM should not pay any bonuses or dividends as long as it is dependent on state aid.
In-fighting within political party 50Plus has led its party leader since 2016, Henk Krol, to resign. Krol was serving as the faction leader in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament.
He said on Sunday he will continue in parliament under his own newly-formed Party for the Future, and his colleague, MP Femke Merel van Kooten, will join him. It has been a turbulent year for Van Kooten, who left animal rights party PvdD in February to join the seniors-focused 50Plus.
Starting on May 6, the municipal health services GGD will test more people for the coronavirus, Jan Woldman of GGD GHOR Nederland said in a briefing to parliament. The GGDs will test primary education employees, daycare and out-of-school care workers, and professional childminders. Trainers who work with children can also go to their local GGD to get tested from next week, Woldman said, NOS reports.
The coronavirus crisis left many students in financial trouble and they urgently need help, student unions LSVB and FNV Young & United said again on Tuesday. The unions received reports of 1,600 students who can no longer afford groceries or their rents, NOS reports.
A group of spirited protesters gathered in front of the lower house of Parliament in The Hague on Tuesday, demonstrating against the lockdown, vaccinations, and the 5G wireless network. About 200 people outside the Tweede Kamer were heard chanting "freedom now", and holding banners with slogans like "Vaccinations: Inaccurate Mess," "Stop5G," and "Stop the Lockdown."
Parties from both in and outside of the ruling coalition have called on the cabinet to take action to protect the financial wellbeing of sex workers in the Netherlands, following the economic fallout caused by the Covid-19 outbreak.
"Despite repeated requests, action has so far failed to materialize," the CDA, ChristenUnie and opposition party PvdA affirmed in a statement. All the while, they claim, many sex workers "do not even have money for food."
Over three weeks after Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge held a press conference pledging that the Netherlands would conduct about 17,500 coronavirus tests every day, the country has barely been able to reach 40 percent of that target. An investigation into rapid tests, which use a drop of blood to determine if someone was infected with the virus, determined that none of the 16 different products available had the accuracy needed to further expand national testing, De Jonge said in a letter to Parliament.
About 3 percent of blood donors in the Netherlands have developed antibodies against Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, RIVM director Jaap van Dissel told the Tweede Kamer based on an as-yet-unpublished study by blood bank Sanquin, NU.nl reports.
A majority in the lower house of Dutch parliament is in favor of sheltering refugees currently staying in overfull camps on the Greek island of Lesbos on cruise ships in order to prevent the coronavirus from spreading among them like wildfire. The parliamentarians called on the Dutch government to push for this solution on a European level, AD reports.
Where ICU nurses normally care for two patients at a time, they are now caring for three or even four during the coronavirus, Diederik Gommers of the intensive care association NVIC said in a briefing to parliament on Wednesday. "That is stressful. The nurses feel the pressure. They feel the stress that they are not in control, that if they make mistakes, patients die," Gommers said, NU.nl reports.
A "flattening" of the Covid-19 infection curve may be starting to show itself, Jaap van Dissel of public health institute RIVM said to parliament on Wednesday. The number of coronavirus patients reported to municipal health services GGD, admitted to hospital, and admitted to intensive care are all leveling off, he said. But he added that these are provisional figures based only on patients who were officially tested, NU.nl reports.
Members of the House of Representatives convened this afternoon to debate with Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra, pressing government to speed up emergency economic measures in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.
The measures in question, which would require significant changes to be made to the government budget, are aimed at aiding small businesses, entrepreneurs and self-employed workers in the Netherlands whose business has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The measures the Dutch government took to curb the spread of coronavirus Covid-19 seem to be succeeding in "flattening the curve". The infection rate of the outbreak is declining, Jaap van Dissel, director of public health institute RIVM said to parliamentarians on Wednesday. "At least there is a positive trend," he said, NOS reports. Diederik Gommers, chairman of the Dutch association for intensive care NVIC, also updated parliamentarians on the state of affairs in the ICUs.
Members of the Tweede Kamer debated the social distancing strategy presented by Prime Minister Mark Rutte to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and widely expressed their approval to press forward. Hearings on the strategy began in the morning and continued in the afternoon and into the night, until Health Minister Bruno Bruins collapsed in the middle of debate.
Stringent measures taken to battle the spread of coronavirus Covid-19 are affecting all aspects of the Netherlands. Most court cases and parliamentary debates have been canceled. Community service has been suspended. And the Netherlands is no longer taking in asylum seekers. Freelancers suddenly unable to go to work are also facing problems.
The top stock market index traded in the Netherlands suffered its worst single-day loss since 1987. The AEX Index, a listing of the top 25 blue chip stocks on the Euronext Amsterdam exchange, lost 10.75 percent of its value on Thursday.
The index, which includes companies like KPN, Shell, Philips, and the country's top banks, has lost over 31 percent since hitting its all-time high on February 14 just before the coronavirus crisis hit Europe. The AEX closed on Thursday at 432.10, returning to levels last seen in October 2016.
As the rate of coronavirus infections continues to grow in the Netherlands, the Dutch government imposed stricter advice to deal with the spread of the virus. The new rules call on anyone in the country to work from home as much as possible especially if they have any respiratory symptoms or a fever, for medical personnel, first responders, and essential workers to cancel travel to countries abroad, and a ban on all events where over a hundred people are to meet in one place.
Netherlands residents are largely not concerned by the spread of the coronavirus Covid-19 in the country. Most people barely adjusted their lives and many think the attention the virus is getting is exaggerated, according to a survey by Markteffect among over a thousand Dutch on behalf of newspaper AD.
On the question of whether people changed their lifestyles due to the virus, 39 percent said no, 32 percent said very slightly, and 24 percent said slightly. Only 11 percent of respondents said they did extra shopping due to Covid-19.
A majority in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, support a D66 proposal to allow childcare centers to refuse children who have not been vaccinated. "This is very important for children and parents who can in this way make an informed choice," D66 parliamentarian Paul van Meenen said to RTL Nieuws.