A pandemic in the centre of Amsterdam

22 maart 2020
Since the dawn of jeans and pop music, and long before that, Amsterdam has been iconic for it’s  various outspoken ideas, conjuring the free way of living people know and love today. From coffeeshops to sex clubs, you will find it all in one of the most famous cultural hubs in Europe. The centre in particular is visited by people from all over the world, making companies located in this area focus and base their business on the influx of international visitors. 2020 brings unprecedented circumstances to the bustling city of Amsterdam, the COVID-19 virus. Here we will take a look at what changed in the centre, and what you can expect.

The circumstances

While Amsterdam, just like the rest of the Netherlands, is not in total lockdown, you can clearly feel results of sweeping measures being taken by local and national government, based on the unavoidable reality of this unprecedented situation. These streets have never been this empty. The famous squares normally littered with people seem deserted, and are. The timetables have changed for public transport, hospitality and food services have shutdown, except for delivery services and the like. Hotels and shops are still open, but are struck hard by the lack of tourists. Often, they won’t stay open because of the little amount of customers, and on top of that some workers are following the important advice to stay home and take sick leave when experiencing symptoms related to the virus. Because of this, more and more shop owners will be announcing the temporary closing of their establishment the coming days and weeks. Visitations to elderly homes have been suspended until the 6th of April, the Minister of health, welfare and sports Hugo de Jonge added that it will most likely be suspended for a longer period of time than the three week ban. All these measures change the daily life of Amsterdam making locals anxious and confused. Coffeeshops have seen a change in routine aswell.

What happens to the coffeeshops?

On Sunday the 15th of March 2020, the government held a national speech clarifying the new rules being implemented concerning the COVID-19 virus. They announced that schools and crèches would close, and that hospitality, sport venues, sexclubs and coffeeshops would close on the day of the announcement at 18:00. Note that this speech was delivered at 17:30. This caused a massive uproar from the cannabis users across the entire country, and not to forget here in the centre of Amsterdam. People from all over marched to coffeeshops to amass as much product as they could. The empty streets in front of coffeeshops were suddenly filled with lines of people trying to get their last smoke.
After closing the doors, illegal street dealers immediately saw the opportunity to replace what was lost. The following day government officials decided to resume the distribution of cannabis through coffeeshops by limiting the stores to takeaway only. Here in the centre, business in coffeeshops is stagnating. As the bulk of tourists have returned safely to their home countries. All remaining establishments that haven’t closed down should partake in comprehensive measures against spreading the virus.

Protection

The many supermarkets and coffeeshops located in the centre of the city (and in other parts) have all implemented some form of protection against the spread. As an example some are building plexiglass screens between the salesperson and the customer so the workers are protected against possible infection. Social distancing will help tremendously too, it is recommended to apply in any situation. The main goal is to keep society functioning safely to the best of our ability, while prolonging the infection rate over a longer period of time. The Dutch government wants to build group immunity against COVID-19, which can only be achieved by giving hospitals the chance to deal with a reasonable amount of patients. Hence the large set of rules and regulations.
All in all, the situation is not pretty. We as a society have to adapt to this temporary way of living. We must counter the virus the best way possible. When asking around how people experienced this crisis, many of them already accepted the direness, and surprisingly said they thought the empty city looked beautiful. Being a local myself I understood what they said. Ever since I can remember the centre was filled with people, giving the city a certain appeal. But now the city is laid bare for us to see, giving some the real image of a long existing thought.
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Thanks to our friends @
Best Friends Amsterdam
Written by
Peije Steinz

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