Dutch political parties GroenLinks and the Party for the Animals (PvdD) have made a renewed push for a temporary fireworks ban this year. Party leaders argue that hospitals, already pushed to breaking point by the coronavirus crisis, could become further overburdened by fireworks victims.
Over 1,300 fireworks victims reported to hospitals or their GPs last year, according to research by VeiligheidNL. Of these, 385 required emergency care. Half of all victims were under the age of 20. More than half of the people injured this year didn’t even light the fireworks themselves.
“Do you accept that you will have hundreds more victims, while ambulances are already driving in circles because some hospitals no longer have a place at the emergency department?” asks Esther Ouwehand, leader of the Party for the Animals.
“If we now see how high the pressure is at hospitals and emergency care, but also enforcement at the police and municipality enforcement officers, then we must act now,” leader of Groenlinks, Jesse Klaver tells Nu.nl.
A fiery history
The Netherlands’ lax laws around fireworks regularly come as a surprise to expats and tourists in the country. Fireworks are readily available for purchase, and children as young as 16 can purchase the full variety of consumer fireworks.
Teenagers often pull pranks like stuffing fireworks into people’s mailboxes or mail slots in their door. It’s not uncommon for homeowners to prepare and tape off their mail slots in advance.
It’s just as bad as it sounds. A father (39) and his son (4) died in an elevator last year after two teenage boys, aged 12 and 13, lit fireworks that started a fire in the apartment building. Police officers have been assaulted, and an elderly man was beaten up last year after asking a group of teenagers to take their fireworks elsewhere.
The situation looked like it may improve this year when the cabinet imposed a partial fireworks ban from next New Year’s Eve. The ban stops the sale of larger-scale pyrotechnics — but Groenlinks and PvdD argue that it’s not enough. Ouwehand says that research indicates that decorative fireworks are the culprit in 55% of accidents.
Boas and emergency care on board
The push for a fireworks ban is backed by the Dutch Association of Emergency Care Arsten (NVSHA) and the association of municipality enforcement officers (Nederlandse BOA Bond). Chairman of the NVSHA, Annemarie van der Velden, says that even if the current corona measures start to work hospitals will still be busy in the coming months.
Additionally, while New Years Eve each year always requires extra staffing, this year will be additionally difficult, says Van der Velden. This is because hospital staff risk becoming infected with coronavirus and requiring time off.
On the municipality enforcement side, Ruud Kuin of the Dutch BOA Bond says that boas are already very busy enforcing coronavirus measures. He says that a partial fireworks ban is even more work, because it is difficult to confirm whether fireworks are legal or illegal. “A total ban eases our work and also makes it safer for our enforcers.”
Will the motion pass?
After years of GroenLinks and PvdD pushing for a fireworks ban, they finally believe that the majority of the House will join them this afternoon when the topic comes up for discussion.
Do you support a fireworks ban in the Netherlands? Tell us in the comments below!
Feature Image: Alexander Kagan/Unsplash