Dam Square in Amsterdam
Mask-wearing individuals at Dam Square in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on June 1, 2020. Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Karen Eliot / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

With over a million vaccines distributed to date, the Netherlands is not ready to remove COVID-19 mitigation mandates just yet. Here’s why.

The US has passed the first year in its battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, one marked by social distancing, mask-wearing, and endless sacrifices. The apprentices in WhoWhatWhy’s Mentor-Apprentice Program documented the changes that continue to shape life in their hometowns, offering a unique snapshot of the spread of the coronavirus to date and the efforts made to overcome it. Here are their stories:

Just outside the Rijksmuseum, home to Amsterdam’s most famous historical artifacts, is an area typically teeming with locals hopping on and off their bikes, tourists taking obligatory selfies, and general hustle and bustle, regardless of the time of day. But recently things at the Museumplein have been looking quite different. 

With over one million COVID-19 infections and 15,859 deaths to date in the Netherlands alone, restrictions on daily life are increasingly evident — and it’s not only the absence of 15 million tourists that is making things quiet. The latest COVID-19 restrictions, announced at the end of January, resulted in a curfew between 9 p.m. and 4:30 a.m., forcing people to stay at home at night. But following 10 months of social distancing, mask mandates, and varying levels of business and school closures, the curfew was a step too far for many residents. After it was announced, protests of the mandate escalated into riots that resulted in criminal damages and numerous arrests

In response to the riots, the mayor of Amsterdam designated the Museumplein as an area of risk, effectively granting police the power to conduct preventative searches of those entering the famous square. While public disorder presents a challenge to the police, some law enforcement officers used humor, such as offering free coffee and tea to protesters in Leiden, in order to reduce tensions and disperse the crowds. 

Recently, legal challenges replaced the riots and protests, as a Dutch court called into doubt the legality of the government’s decision to impose a curfew. The appeals ended in the government’s favor, with the courts upholding the curfew. 

With more than 1.6 million vaccine doses administered to date, targeting nursing home residents and people in their 70s, the Dutch government is set to review its current COVID-19 measures in early March. 


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