As October 2020 rolled in and the number of Covid-19 infections and hospitalizations continued to rise, it was quite clear that the Netherlands would have to enter another lockdown. I thought we’d have learnt our lesson from March and it’d be a rapid and total lockdown so perhaps we could open up in a limited way for Christmas.
What we got instead was a dithering, half-hearted thing - as if the way Covid-19 spreads was still shrouded in some deep cosmic mystery. Restaurants were the first ones to shut down. However, restaurants attached to hotels were allowed to stay open. Not only did some of those subvert the rules by charging a small fee to “check in” the customers into the hotel, a couple of these attached restaurants we walked past, weren’t observing any social distancing1. Offices were closed but museums, cinema halls and schools remained open. You couldn’t have more than two people over at your house in a day, but you could go pray together with whatever number of people your place of worship allowed2. As if the virus cared.
By November-end it was clear that harsher measures would be needed and on 14th December we were placed under a hard lockdown till 19th January 2021. Given the impending threat of the more readily transmissible variants doing rounds in the UK, South Africa and Brazil, the lockdown was recently extended till at least 9th February 2021.
All restaurants (including those attached to hotels), shops, schools, museums, cinema halls etc. are closed. Thankfully, restaurants are open for delivery. Essential shops such as grocery stores and pharmacies are open. It was unseemly to see a couple of chains try and push the bounds of “essential” to stay open. In the end, the government intervened and put a stop to these shenanigans.
Sadly, the vaccinations here have been off to a slow start and have been beset with controversies around who is included in the first wave and when exactly they could expect a shot. To say nothing of supply shortages, reckless talk of delaying the second booster shot, or worse, mixing up different vaccines. Makes you wonder why they bother going through clinical trials and a lengthy approval process. At least they have a plan. But with the cabinet here having resigned (due to another scandal unrelated to Covid) and elections due in March, I have little faith in our ability to stick to it.
Meanwhile, like elsewhere, there is some societal unrest here too. Yesterday there was a demonstration at Museumplein that was ended by mounted police and a water canon. Over a hundred people were arrested. There is now talk of a curfew from 8:00 PM till 4:00 AM3.
On the brighter side (literally), the days are getting longer. Yesterday, after many weeks of slinking away early, the sun set at 5:00 PM. Today, it went down at 5:02 PM. Every minute helps. A couple of days ago, we got a little bit of snow that made the city look like it was right out of a fairy tale. On those rare days when the sun is out, we can hear bird song and even see birds make a short stop at our balcony. We better get some outdoor furniture for the balcony because it looks like we’ll be spending a lot of time there…