Could there be a firework ban for New Year’s Eve?
A number of mayors and politicians are asking for fireworks to be banned for New Year's celebrations in 2021, in the hopes that a ban will alleviate some of the strain on the Dutch healthcare system amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
No fireworks to ring in the new year?
Left-wing political parties GroenLinks and Party for the Animals (PvdD) called on the Dutch cabinet to implement a temporary ban on the sale of fireworks over the New Year, arguing that it would be irresponsible to burden the healthcare system with firework-related injuries. Their motion had the support of the Dutch Association of Emergency Physicians (NVSHA), the association of community officers (BOAs), and the ACP police union, as well as the 25 mayors making up the Dutch security council.
Following a debate in the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) on Tuesday, the motion for a temporary ban received majority support. However, MPs are asking State Secretary Stientje van Veldhoven if a temporary ban is even feasible. Van Veldhoven is expected to discuss the motion with her fellow cabinet ministers, and present a decision in two weeks' time.
Some municipalities, including Rotterdam, have already announced a temporary ban. Meanwhile, Amsterdam, which was set to introduce a ban this year, has postponed the ban until 2021, with Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema arguing that there would be too much pressure on officers if they were to enforce both the coronavirus rules and the fireworks ban.
The Dutch and their love of fireworks
Last year, according to Safety.nl, 385 people were treated in emergency departments in hospitals for injuries caused by fireworks. A further 900 people were treated by GPs for less serious injuries. In addition to the additional strain for the healthcare system, police officers and BOAs face a number of firework-related incidents (over 9.000 last year).
“Fireworks not only cause damage and put enormous pressure on the emergency services, but also bring a lot of uncertainty and tension,” said Hubert Hruls, chairperson of the security council. “We are in the worst crisis since World War II. We all need to step back in the things we normally really enjoy."
In spite of all this, however, some professors argue a firework ban is not a viable or democratic solution. “I don't know if it's a good idea from a democratic point of view to use public concern about corona to force an acceleration,” Isa Helsloot, professor of governance and safety at Radboud University, told Trouw.
Furthermore, professor of clinical psychology Jan Derksen argues fireworks are more important than ever this year, as they could help boost morale: “We live in a time when a lot of frustration is experienced. Don't take everything away from the frustrated people.”