July 26, 2021

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Rule-breaking in bars in Holland a difficulty as Covid price soars

College students cheer on a terrasse of a restaurant in Amsterdam on June 25, 2021 when the Netherlands eased Covid-19 restrictions.

PAUL BERGEN | AFP | Getty Photographs

Rule-breaking in cafes and bars within the Netherlands is a persistent drawback that the hospitality trade should take care of, the nation’s prime minister stated because the nation battles with a surge in Covid-19 infections.

Talking Monday, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte implored the trade to make prospects adhere to the foundations on social distancing and remaining sitting down of their assigned seats, including that this was vital given the excessive variety of infections.

“With regard to the hospitality trade, we want to level out that it’s going effectively in lots of locations, however in too many locations it isn’t and this can be very essential,” Rutte stated at a short information convention Monday afternoon.

Rutte stated that the police can not monitor tens of 1000’s of bars, cafes and eating places within the Netherlands to verify they’re complying with the foundations of social distancing and seating prospects, “so we actually have to try this collectively,” he stated. “With the present an infection figures, we do not wish to should take further measures,” he added.

Not sufficient social distancing

While bars, restaurants and cafes have been allowed to remain open and can operate at 100% capacity, there are strict rules in place.

People must be assigned seats and keep a 1.5 meter distance if sitting inside, unless hygiene screens are placed between tables. For outdoor service, social distancing is not necessary. Entertainment, including live performances and TV screens, is not permitted and loud music may not be played, government rules state. Venues must close at midnight.

Coen Berends, a spokesperson for the Netherlands’ National Institute for Public Health and the Environment told CNBC on Tuesday that it was “impossible to calculate the effect of this ‘rule breaking'” in bars, cafes and restaurants.

“In general we model the effects of the applied rules and can also model the effect of the absence of rules. These models predict the effect of a whole package of measures, but can’t discriminate between different rules or the lack of compliance to a specific rule. In general our Management Outbreak Team advises the rules on social distancing and sitting in assigned seats in bars and restaurants to diminish spreading of the virus. So, disobeying these rules might definitely have an effect. Especially with the now dominant Delta variant of the virus,” he said.

“We do not, however, know the extent of this effect. It will certainly not have the massive effect that opening clubs and organizing large events had a couple of weeks ago. We see a stabilization of the numbers of positive tests now. So it seems the latest measures made by our government are successful. We will still have to see what the effect is on [the] number of hospitalizations,” Berends noted.

Infections running high

The Netherlands is certainly still in a difficult position when it comes to Covid infections, however, lying just below the U.K. in terms of its high infection rate in Europe but further behind when it comes to vaccinations. In the U.K., 68.5% of adults are fully vaccinated, in the Netherlands, it’s just above 50%, the latest available data shows.

On Monday, Jaap van Dissel, the chair of the government’s Outbreak Management Team and director of the Centre for Infectious Disease Control, warned that in the past seven calendar days (measured from July 9-15), the number of reports of Covid-positive individuals has increased by 298%, compared to the previous seven days.

“Since the relaxation of the measures on June 26, there has been a strong increase of the number of infections among 18-29 year-olds,” van Dissel said in an open letter to the country’s director-general of public health. He said it was too early to tell what impact the tightening of measures would have.

On Monday, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge expressed the hope that cases were stabilizing and would begin to fall. Speaking alongside Rutte on Monday, De Jonge said that “over the past week … the number of positive test results has stabilized and that means that growth is not continuing. I think that’s positive.” 

“At the same time, we have to say: The number of positive test results at this level, of around 10,000 per day over the past week, is of course too high and that must of course be reduced.” 

He said the country must work hard to reduce the number of infections, echoing Rutte’s call for the 1.5 meter social-distancing rule to be adhered too “in the hospitality industry, on the street and also at home when we receive guests … We really need that 1.5 meter space for the time being to ensure that we will keep that epidemic under control.”

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