Dutch will pay the price for a ‘light’ lockdown

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This five-part series examines how major European economies have coped with the Covid crisis and how governments have struggled to save jobs and businesses. Our final stop is in the Netherlands, where Prime Minister Mark Rutte has advocated a ‘smart’ lockdown, but rising infections and the end of state subsidies have fueled the political divide.In the colorful center of Dam Square, a flood of tourists and affluent locals normally enter and exit Amsterdam’s most prestigious department store. But behind the doors of De Bijenkorf – « the Beehive« – there is no honey (nor money). The store is the most prominent victim of tough new rules, which means businesses linked to a number of coronavirus infections can be shut down for two weeks.

The store had to close a day earlier this month after 10 of its 1,400 employees tested positive for Covid. This came as a surprise to Chief Executive Officer Giovanni Colauto, as only a day earlier had he spoken to the government’s public health body GGD about how staff should change face masks three times a day, as well as to limit the number of customers, to ensure social distancing, etc. security measures such as plexiglass screens.

“Since the stores reopened, we’ve done everything we can to create the safest shopping and working environment possible,” he says. “I regret the decision to temporarily close the store. This has a major impact for the Bijenkorf and also for the city.

Although the Netherlands has closed a handful of hotels and cafes that are believed to be breaking the rules to limit the coronavirus, the closure of De Bijenkorf has come as a surprise to others. As of March, the country’s approach has featured a light touch, asking citizens to work from home, stand 1.5 meters from others, and self-isolate when sick – with the broader goal of balancing the health of the nation with a once thriving economy.

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