Restaurants, shops, and sex workers protest coronavirus lockdown
Since the coronavirus press conference on February 23, there have been growing frustrations within certain industries who feel they are consistently overlooked by the Dutch government and continue to face a national lockdown for the foreseeable future. Now, some of the businesses affected by the lockdown are taking things into their own hands, with business owners and sex workers protesting across the Netherlands on Tuesday.
Entrepreneurs and workers frustrated by ongoing coronavirus lockdown
At the press conference, acting Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced that everyone working in contact professions would be able to return to work on March 3, and that shops in the Netherlands would be able to open for shopping by appointment.
But sex workers were exempted from the relaxation, and shops have complained that the rules they have to adhere to in order to open are too strict, and so appointments will have little effect on their businesses. Meanwhile, the hospitality industry - which has been closed since October - was once again disappointed to learn that it would remain closed until March 15.
And so last week, as people across the country gathered together in parks and open spaces to make the most of the mild February weather, the hospitality industry and politicians pleaded with the cabinet to allow for restaurants, bars, and cafes to reopen their terraces. Businesses also threatened to reopen their terraces in March regardless of the restrictions, but acting Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus said this would be “illegal,” and any businesses that did so would face a fine.
Terraces and shops across the Netherlands to reopen on Tuesday
But with many businesses reopening on Wednesday, the hospitality industry, shops, and sex workers have decided to take action, with protests across the Netherlands planned for Tuesday.
A group of sex workers will protest in The Hague on Tuesday afternoon, and will perform a “peep show on wheels” outside the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer). Meanwhile, restaurants and cafes in 65 regional departments of Koninklijke Horeca Nederland (KHN) - the largest union representing hospitality businesses in the Netherlands - have called on members to open their terraces.
Businesses in Breda, Haarlem, and Leiden, for example, will, in a symbolic move, set up their outdoor terraces but will not serve customers. Johan de Vos, chairman of KHN Breda, said: “We will show that [reopening] can be done responsibly, with sufficient distance.”
And in a town in Drenthe, 140 shops are opening their doors on Tuesday morning “to show that it is possible to shop safely.” According to the local retailers association, the action is necessary to prevent more businesses from going bankrupt: “With the current rules from The Hague it is impossible to generate a decent turnover,” said shopowner Harrie van der Velde.