Mayor of Breda cancels King's Day Fieldlab coronavirus-proof event
The government's decision to authorise a King's Day festival in Breda for 10.000 people had drawn significant criticism from healthcare workers and members of the public alike. The local mayor, Paul Depla, has decided to refuse to issue a permit for the event, thereby cancelling a Fieldlab coronavirus trial.
Dutch government defends decision to invest in events
Last week, the government announced plans for an additional 12 Fieldlab coronavirus-proof trial events, as State Secretary for Economic Affairs, Mona Keijzer, emphasised that these events were crucial for determining whether access tests were effective in preventing coronavirus outbreaks at large events as well as smaller ones.
Since last week, the Dutch government has defended its decision to put aside 925 million euros into the events and the infrastructure required to facilitate the trials. The cabinet has also emphasised that the events aren’t just an excuse to party and have fun, but serve as research into the viability and safety of future events.
Health Minister Hugo de Jonge has also defended the investment, saying the Fieldlab trials “made fun things possible.” "It is a fantastic investment, where beautiful things are organised," he said, “People say afterwards that they had a fantastic day and missed these gatherings.”
Medical experts warn that it's too early
Medical experts and people who work within the Dutch healthcare system, however, weren't overly keen on the idea. In a letter to De Jonge, four hospital administrators, several doctors, and the chairs of four major health insurers said the money invested into the trials could be much better spent elsewhere: “Do we opt for a costly impulse purchase to calm things down or do we want to invest the amount sustainably in a healthier society?".
The Outbreak Management Team (OMT) has also been critical of the number of large events scheduled over the coming weeks. Experts fear it is too early to organise such large events, and are worried about what they could mean for the spread of coronavirus and hospital admissions. "This is not the time to have these large-scale pilots," said Andreas Voss, OMT member and head of microbiology at a hospital in Nijmegen.
Two large Fieldlab events cancelled
As a result of the backlash, the government decided that the local municipalities could take the decision as to whether or not such large events could take place, and while Depla had initially voiced his support for the event, he ultimately decided it wasn't worth the risk. And the King's Day Oranjedag isn't the only event that has been cancelled - the Startschotgala which would see 10.000 people gather in Lichtenvoorde has been postponed indefinitely due to ongoing social debate.
In a statement, Depla cited the potential social unrest the event would cause as the reason for its cancellation: "The police are receiving more and more signs that the 538 Oranjedag will attract supporters and opponents of the corona policy and the Fieldlabs, presenting several security risks," he wrote. Anyone who had already purchased a ticket for the event will be fully reimbursed.
While many members of the public had been fighting for tickets to these events, around 375.000 people have been quick to support a petition started by a doctor at the Amphia Hospital in Breda which called for the government to cancel the event, arguing that holding a festival “400 metres from a hospital overloaded by covid is a blow to patients and caregivers.” While the medical sector is pleased with Depla's decision, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Economic Affairs said it was a pity the event had been cancelled, but respected the decision.