King’s Day 2021: 50 arrested in Amsterdam, parks closed across the Netherlands
For the second year in a row, the Netherlands celebrated the King’s birthday in lockdown. However, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic didn’t stand in the way of thousands of people up and down the country taking to streets and parks across the country. With the gorgeous weather, it is perhaps unsurprising that celebrations got a little out of hand.
Dutch police forced to intervene in cities across the Netherlands
Early in the day, the municipality of Amsterdam asked people to stay out of the city centre and avoid crowds, closing several entrances to Vondelpark. Similarly, Utrecht, Haarlem, Maastricht, Breda, Groningen, Leeuwarden, Rotterdam, and Tilburg saw large crowds gather and police were forced to intervene. Several parks were closed.
Parks across the country had to be cleared out, as thousands came together while failing to adhere to the 1,5-metre distance rule. The Vondelpark was evacuated and shut down at around 4 pm on Tuesday afternoon. Leidseplein and other parts of the Amsterdam city centre also saw huge numbers of people gather to party.
A total of 50 people were arrested in the capital, and three police officers were injured after attempting to break up a fight and disperse crowds at Westerstraat. The riot police were also called in to take action at Leidseplein, Bloemgracht, and Wolvenstraat. In Utrecht, Amsterdam, and Breda the municipality asked bars to stop selling alcohol before the alcohol ban came into effect at 8 pm.
Medical experts left angered and disappointed by public's behaviour
While last year, the Dutch police had said they’d found King’s Day remarkably quiet compared to a “normal” year, the 2021 holiday marked a significant change in atmosphere and behaviour. Hubert Bruls, mayor of Nijmegen and chairman of the Security Council, said on Tuesday that “it was really too busy in several places.”
Virologist and member of the Outbreak Management Team, Marion Koopmans, also voiced her concerns about the crowds and parties in Dutch cities and parks, saying that it was too early to be so relaxed about the virus. "It is understandable because we notice on all sides that there must be some room for more activities, but it is really worrisome. We cannot afford very much.”
Staff working in the Dutch healthcare system were also left angered and disappointed by the behaviour of the general public. Nurses took to Twitter, asking people of all ages to stick to the rules, and highlighting how busy hospitals and intensive care units were.