Lax distancing measurements and partying students – A recipe for a second corona wave?

Hustle and bustle on terraces. (Photograph: Sofia Strodt)

The outdoor cafes in Groningen’s city center are crowded with people soaking up the late summer weather. But while these guests enjoy the uncharacteristically warm afternoons, many are ignoring the 1.5 meters social distancing rule ordered by the Dutch government to keep the Coronavirus from spreading.

Discos and nightclubs in the student city are still closed, but this doesn’t keep residents from going out to get their drink on. Cafes and restaurants are well-visited during the daytime, too. Experts warn that failing to obey the safety regulations is likely to cause a second wave of COVID-19 infections.

There has been a steep increase of cases among members of two student associations, one of them being Vindicat, a Dutch student association. In total, 15 members have tested positive for COVID-19 so far. “I suspect that individual meetings between members took place in the city, because bars are open. We’re still in the middle of an investigation to find out which members were in contact with each other, but we don’t have an answer yet,” says Wessel Giezen, president of the association.

Ben Keijzer, who works for the national information number for all matters related to COVID-19, says that within one week 25,000 people throughout The Netherlands got tested for the respiratory disease. Still, this might not be enough to keep the virus from spreading. According to Keijzer, many people with symptoms do not get tested because of the long waiting lists.

“Currently it takes four days to get a test appointment,” says Keijzer. Under government safety measures potential carriers of the disease would have to go into quarantine during this time. This is too long for many people, especially those who work. “Also, people are tired of staying at home,” the expert adds. As a result many simply dismiss their symptoms as having a cold, rather than getting tested.

Bartender Mike van Loorkloven who works at The Cabin, a bar that is popular among international students, is not too concerned about the virus spreading. The bar has implemented regulations to keep the risk of infections to a minimum. “All guests have to stay seated and fill in a sheet with their contact details,” van Loorkloven explains.

He hopes that the Dutch government will not enforce a second lockdown. “If there would be lockdown again, it would be catastrophic for the bar,” he says.

Ben Keijzer utters concerns: “When I look at the risks, I’m afraid there will be another wave of infections. I hope that people realize the seriousness of the situation at hand. I’m really trying to have some faith in humanity, but I’m afraid there will be more cases.”

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