By Peter Vandermeersch
We’re all in this together, aren’t we? Covid-19 is basically the same in Dublin, Brussels or Amsterdam. According to the official figures, in Ireland, Belgium and The Netherlands combined almost 20,000 people died due to Coranavirus over the last seven months. The English terms “social distancing’, “lockdown” and “second wave” are also used in Dutch and French. In all three countries, too many people in care homes died in the course of the last few months. In all three countries, the number of new cases is rising rapidly and the respective governments are considering stricter measures.
So, we’re all in this together? Yes, but in very different ways. Having spent time in Ireland, Belgium and The Netherlands for work over the last couple of days, I’m completely confused. A couple of examples: in Dublin all the restaurants are closed to indoor dining. In Brussels, where there is a higher number of new infections per 100,000 people, restaurants are open but all the serving staff are obliged to wear mouth masks.
In Maastricht, The Netherlands, no-one in the restaurants are wearing any protection. On the streets of Dublin, you see about one in four people wearing a mask. In Brussels, everybody is obliged to wear a mask on the street (and does so). In The Netherlands last weekend, I barely saw anybody with a mask.
In Dublin, so-called “wet pubs” are closed, while in Belgium and The Netherlands they are open. Nevertheless, the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, announced that from this week onwards, Dutch bars will be asked to close… at 10 p.m. every evening.
In Belgium and The Netherlands, professional soccer matches took place last weekend with half of the normal amount of people in the stadium. In Ireland, this is still forbidden.
When I tell colleagues in Belgium and The Netherlands that pubs are still closed in Ireland and Dublin restaurants have closed their doors again, they find it hard to believe me. But when I tell them that in Belgium (with almost 11 million inhabitants) close to 10,000 people have died because of Covid, while in Ireland (with a population of under 5 million) we have lost about 1,800 people, they realise that the strict Irish system is maybe not so bad.