The beautiful weekend weather brought people out of their houses and into the streets, parks, and shops. This is in spite of the government’s guidelines to stay home unless it’s absolutely necessary to leave.
Last Tuesday’s press conference announced a series of new temporary restrictions, to be followed for a mere two weeks. For many people in the Netherlands, that’s apparently two weeks too long. The Dutch government’s advice to stay home is being largely ignored.
Cities still bustling
In cities over the weekend, the level of activity suggested no sign of a pandemic. People took the streets for coffee, takeaway meals, and shopping, even though Prime Minister Mark Rutte said explicitly to “Stay at home and go to the shops less. Ask yourself, ‘Do I really need to go? Do I really need to leave my house?'”
Rutte may have warned, “don’t be surprised if we are strict,” but that has yet to be seen. It’s clear that people have not taken this seriously, as plenty of groups with more than two people hit the crowded streets over the past weekend.
During the second lockdown, more businesses are offering takeout, Koninklijke Horeca Nederland (a catering union) tells NOS. “What we see, when the weather is nice, is that people now like to go out into the open air. There are not many other options.”
The catering union says hospitality professionals are responding as best as they can to help prevent turnover and keep employees working.
“That is human and not rocket science”
“We are almost not allowed to do anything anymore. So what is allowed becomes more attractive. Getting a coffee to go is the new outing,” Rick van Baaren, professor of behavioural change at Utrecht University tells NOS.
The behavioural scientist thinks that the initial urgency and fear of the first wave have subsided, and people are no longer willing to heed the government’s warnings. “It is not prohibited. It is advice. If you do not want anyone to go out, you should ban it. Then people will listen,” says Van Baren.
He thinks that people will continue to take to the streets if there is no ban. “People need to do something. That is human and not rocket science.”
“If the government shows that it is doing everything it can to get the situation right, more people will do their best.”
Code red in nature
Team leader Rein Zwaan of Utrecht’s forest rangers does believe it’s a good idea for people to go outside. However, they should recreate locally and avoid crowded areas.
“I get it,” he says. “More and more places are closed and people want to get out anyway. Then they think: in nature, I have space. Well, sometimes then.”
The ranger says, “In the rush to the parking lots, things go wrong. It is extremely busy there. We call for you to only go to nature reserves where you can come on foot or by bicycle. But then we encounter a problem: there is often too little nature to accommodate the people.”
In Brabant, several nature reserves even issued a “code red” over the weekend, meaning it’s too busy and people must go elsewhere.
In Utrecht, a similar warning was issued from forest rangers and nature organisations. But this did nothing to dissuade visitors, as parking lots reached capacity and traffic jams piled up.
What do you think of people’s response to the new government measures? Have you been following them? Let us know in the comments.
Feature Image: Brin Andrews/DutchReview