The Groningen Safety Region (Veiligheidsregio) has taken the decision to go to the “worrying” risk level at 18:00 on Sunday. From that moment on, extra measures will also become valid in the whole province of Groningen. The catering industry must close its doors by 01:00, and events may be only have a maximum of fifty attendees.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced on Friday afternoon that Groningen is one of the eight regions where the risk level is being increased. Measures introduced are consistent with those in the South of the country, with bar doors ordered closed at midnight. At that point, music must be turned off, and an hour later everyone has leave. For parties, drinks and other social events there will be a maximum of fifty people, whether indoors or outdoors. Exceptions are only for protests, religious gatherings and the practice of dance or theater. Events expecting more than fifty visitors must report to the Safety Region.
Mayor Koen Schuiling from Groningen later announced some extra measures in a press conference. “Recently we have seen a significant increase in the number of corona infections in the Groningen region. Even more worrying is that the number of hospital admissions is increasing,” says Schuiling.
Extra communication and attention to basic rules
Schuiling indicated that additional actions have been initiated in enforcement and communication. Shops and sports clubs have been asked to pay extra attention to the basic rules. In supermarkets, Schuiling again wants block times for vulnerable groups. In the catering industry, attention must again be paid to health checks and asking for contact details from visitors.
Posters for young people
The focus of the Groningen contamination figures lies with young people and students. Posters are also made for students that clearly state the basic rules. A campaign has also been developed together with students to try international students properly informed. Schuiling advised young people to limit contact with vulnerable groups.
Social and psychological complaints
“We are also in close contact with the University of Groningen, the Hanze University of Applied Sciences and the MBO institutions,” says Schuiling. “And we also understand that people are paying attention to the social and sometimes psychological complaints that are caused by the lack of contact. But I also hope that there is understanding that vulnerable people are waiting for measures. That is a fragile balance in which we have to find a balance.”
Extra attention for house parties
Enforcers and the police continue to carry out targeted checks on places where people gather. “And there is extra attention for house parties, especially in Groningen,” says Schuiling.
In case of complaints: stay at home and get tested
Schuiling: “So in summary: avoid crowds, avoid unnecessary contact, don’t go shopping with the two of you and don’t organize parties if it’s not necessary. Work from home if possible and keep 1.5 meters away. Continue to wash your hands and observe all hygiene measures. In case of complaints you stay at home and get tested.”
“We are at a crucial moment”
“The government cannot do this alone”, Schuiling concludes. “I make another urgent appeal: we must observe and comply with the basic rules. We must reverse this trend together. We are at a crucial moment, but by working together we can do it.”
Especially infections at home
GGD (public health service) director Jos Rietveld said that the number of positive tests in the province of Groningen has now exceeded 1,600. “In June we were still at 300. The increase has been enormous since September,” he says. Rietveld says that half of the infections takes place in the home, often also in student houses. In 35 percent of the cases, the contamination takes place in the catering industry or at meetings or social matters.
More testing capacity next week
Around 800 to 900 tests can now be performed daily in the province of Groningen. Next week, the test capacity will increase to 1200 tests per day. “That is mainly due to the capacity of the labs. Some of our tests are already going to Germany,” says Rietveld.
According to the figures from the GGD, 86 new infections were added in the province of Groningen last 24 hours. A fourth test location will be opened in Farmsum next week.