Dutch approach

Not Locked or Down: the Dutch Approach to the Pandemic

Spring has come and went like a breath of fresh air after almost two months of being locked down intelligently (in the Netherlands). Now we are feeling that summer is here, at least based on the high temperatures in the last few days.

For the Dutch, lockdown doesn’t mean locked or down. When the first package of measures was announced in the second week of March many thought it was the end of freedom as we know it. However, compared to other countries, the Dutch way has always been keeping basic freedoms, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, keeping everyone’s mental and physical health in place, and still having plenty of room to move around.

The lifestyle change for many people has not been very brutal (again, comparing with other countries). For others, the first weeks were a welcome change – working from home, spending time with family, attending to much-needed house repairs, and series-bingeing on Netflix. Shops are still open, restaurants have takeaways and deliveries, and fairly everything is available. However, the one thing that the Dutch can’t do just yet is to visit their loved ones who are living in old and nursing homes. Old people have been hit hard and two-thirds of the nursing homes in the Netherlands have been affected by the pandemic.

The number of deaths and infected by the COVID19 is flattening but the Dutch government stays cautious. As Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in one of his press conferences: “Eet je kroket niet in één keer op” (Don’t eat your croquette all at once). Relative to its population of 17 million, it is still considered a severely hit country and, pressure on the health system is still very high.

Basic schools opened on May 11 and on June 2, high schools will follow while universities will remain shut until the end of summer. Restrictions are loosening further in July and after September, big gatherings might begin.

We ask, is the Dutch way very lax or just right? A blogger in the Netherlands called it a laid-back lockdown, which uses the Polder Model. The Dutch are known for this model of reclaiming land from the sea that involves the use of polders and also a way to control floods. The traditional polders in The Netherlands have been formed from the 12th century when people started creating arable land by draining delta swamps into nearby rivers. Without polders, much of the Netherlands have probably been erased from the map by now.

The Netherlands has been faced by many natural threats, first and foremost the rising sea level. The tiny country has to perfect the methods to keep the water at bay while maximizing the benefits of having water around. It has the biggest port in Europe, an innovative agricultural sector that is an envy to the world, and mass recreational activities involving water.

The Dutch approach is partly cultural, taking the country’s experiences from the existential threats and people’s acceptance and faith to a large extent that the government is going in the right direction. It also adds to the fact that the Dutch are among the most pragmatic, Calvinistic, and innovative. It is without criticisms, especially from armchair scientists and oppositions, but it is a hopeful one.



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