Muted celebrations of Dutch king's birthday amid pandemic

PTI | Amsterdam | Updated: 27-04-2021 19:20 IST | Created: 27-04-2021 19:20 IST
Muted celebrations of Dutch king's birthday amid pandemic
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Crowds gathered in at least two Dutch cities Tuesday despite authorities urging people to stick to coronavirus social distancing regulations as the country marked the King's Day national holiday.

Amsterdam municipality shut off access to two of the city's main parks by early afternoon and urged people to stay away from the Dutch capital, saying it was too busy. Amsterdam police also said they broke up several parties overnight.

In the central city of Arnhem, hundreds packed into a central market square for a demonstration against the government and lockdown measures, prompting city officials to urge people to stay away as the area was full.

The protesters then began marching through the city chanting slogans including “We are the Netherlands,” as scores of police monitored the demonstration.

This year, the national holiday comes with lockdown fatigue rising and a day before an easing of some restrictions even though hospitals are having to postpone regular medical procedures so they can focus on the high level of COVID-19 patients.

King Willem-Alexander marked his 54th birthday in Eindhoven, a southern city that brands itself as a hub for high-tech innovation, with a largely digital version of the annual royal walkabout.

The king, who publicly expressed regret last year for going on a vacation in Greece during the pandemic, paid tribute to care workers unable to join festivities.

“Our hearts go out to the people who can't celebrate today,'' he said, adding that he hoped for “a normal King's Day next year.'' The national holiday is usually an occasion for the Dutch to drape themselves in orange clothes, hats and feather boas, sell old toys and books in street markets and crowd the streets of major cities.

This year, for the second straight year, authorities encouraged people to stay close to home.

The capital, Amsterdam, urged residents to celebrate according to lockdown guidelines with a maximum of one visitor, but added “you can still dig out the orange T-shirt or silly hat and hang out the flag.” A man wearing an orange robe cycled down a near deserted street in the city, while people stood in socially distanced lines waiting to buy pastries topped with icing in the national color orange. But the city became busier later as temperatures warmed up, prompting officials to urge people to stay away.

Arnhem, meanwhile, was bracing for possible violent confrontations between football hooligans and the protest against the government.

In an attempt to prevent rioting, the city's mayor, Ahmed Marcouch, gave police special powers for the day to check people coming into Arnhem and imposed a limit of 500 people for the demonstration.

Marcouch said that demonstrations are a constitutional right, but that “signals of the risk of rioting at different locations in the city endanger that right to demonstrate.” On Wednesday, the national lockdown is being eased with measures including the end of a nationwide curfew imposed in mid-January and cafes allowed to reopen their outdoor terraces — under strict conditions — from noon to 6 p.m.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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