The Hague in Lockdown

Yesterday, the Dutch Government ordered a hard lockdown in the country because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Where many had hoped that high levels of vaccination will lead to a return to normal life, the new Omicron variant of the virus has largely replaced that hope with despair. The measures to reduce the spread of the Covid-19 virus mean that only essential stores will be open, such as supermarkets and pharmacies. Restaurants, bars, theatres, cinemas, sports facilities, and all other non-essential businesses are to be closed until further notice. Takeaway and collecting goods from shops, however, are allowed. It is expected that the measures will last well into January 2022.

This means that as we approach the festive season, and the shortest day of the year, socialising outside one’s home is severely limited. Even there, the Government advises to receive no more than two guests per day, young children excluded. The result is that the dynamics of Dutch cities have changed, especially at night. Many of the streets are empty, with only a few people taking a walk or letting their dogs out. Delivery couriers, however, have become a common feature across the Netherlands, including in The Hague, the de facto capital.

On his way to bring food to a hungry customer.

While some find new opportunities to prosper in these extraordinary times, many, such as restaurant owners, struggle to make ends meet. There is a saying in Dutch: de een zijn dood, de ander zijn brood. Loosely translated it means that one’s death, not necessarily literal, can bring benefits (bread) to another. With everyone dining at home, supermarkets and online shops have seen their profits rise during the pandemic.

The table was set to receive customers for a joyous Christmas dinner. This restaurant owner will wish for a better new year.
Storage places for online supermarkets have spawned across the city, with fleets of (electric) bikes parked in front of them.
Restaurants are open for takeaway, as is this coffeeshop which sells soft drugs.

One of the groups most affected by the partial lockdown and restrictions on social interactions is the youth. Many are finding it difficult to cope with the “new normal” and can’t wait to go out dancing again, play team sports, visit museums etc. The effects of the pandemic on mental health have been widely reported around the world. There are much fewer young people out and about, as compared to pre-pandemic days.

A few friends, who have probably run out of patience with the pandemic, make use of empty chairs of this restaurant.
Shops are closed, the need for this sign is largely gone,
There is also generally less traffic on the streets, and trams are mostly empty. Not that you can see that in this picture.

One thing is certain, these are historic times that we live in. Let’s hope that we will not have to compete with this statue of Johan de Witt, a former Prime Minister, for patience much longer. In the meantime, enjoy the festive period the best you can, stay safe, and remember, there is always chocolate.

Who can take a deeper breath?
Could you?
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