Corona-Krise in den Niederlanden: „The world has had a rude awakening, but…“

Sake Swart ist seit Jahren ein Partner des Max-Windmüller-Gymnasiums: Als Lehrer arbeitet er in Leeuwarden in den Niederlanden und vertritt mit seiner Kollegin Rosalie Steinman die Piter-Jelles-Montessori School. Seit 2016 besteht im Rahmen der Zusammenarbeit des ERASMUS+-Projektes SIRS (hier ein Link zu einem Video der Projektarbeit) eine enge Kooperation zwischen dem Max und den Kollegen im Nachbarland, von denen uns gerade einmal 250 Kilometer trennen. Auch dort bestimmt das Corona-Virus das Leben momentan völlig, wie Sake Swart berichtet:

„At the beginning of January, the first reports about a new virus from China reached our ears. It appeared that the outbreak would be contained to Wuhan, given the isolation measures they were taking, but nothing proved further from the truth. In the same time period, we went on ski holidays to the Dolomites in Italy. We had great snow, beautiful weather and good company. During the après ski, we laughingly ordered our drinks: “I’ll have another Corona!”.

Once back in the Netherlands, it appeared that the virus had already spread to more countries. France and Italy followed with alarming speed.
In the Netherlands, school vacations are spread out to avoid holiday congestion. We in the Northern region had the first week of our ‘spring’ holidays, the third week of February. Because of this, it was reasonably quiet on the ski slopes in Austria and we could ski to our heart’s content. In hindsight, we were very lucky. The Middle and Southern parts of the Netherlands had holidays a week later, the week of February 22nd. In that period, the virus broke out in earnest in the region of Lombardy in northern Italy, and also many of the winter sport vacationers returning from the ski areas in Austria brought the virus home with them. An infection is passed quickly in full gondolas and packed ski bars. With Carnival starting at the same time, the Dutch province of North Brabant was hit especially hard, the number of infections increasing rapidly. At that point, those of us in the North were not really all that worried.
However, on 12 March, the Dutch government announced measures to prevent further spread of the virus, one of which was, no meetings of more than 100 people. The strange thing was, schools were allowed to remain open. We have 800 students in our school building. In disbelief, we discussed this among ourselves. School boards and the education unions also got involved.
During my last gym class before the weekend, I discussed this with my class. I wished them a good weekend and said that I expected that it might be a very long weekend. They thought that was a great idea: sleeping in, playing video games and no school.
Sunday of that weekend brought a new press conference with stricter measures. The hospitality industry was closed immediately and from Monday onwards the schools would also be closed for three weeks. How were we going to deal with that?

Sake Swart vor einer Flagge, die zur Unterstützung des niederländischen Gesundheitssystems aufruft.

We decided as personnel to go to school on Monday to decide how we would continue teaching. Online teaching would commence, with the most important emphasis on the students in their exam year. We were just approaching the test week and wanted to carry on with this digitally. The other classes would also receive online lessons. It was a whole new experience for all of us.

From the moment that the Corona virus reached our part of the country, the weather took a turn for the better. After weeks of wind and rain and unusually soft temperatures, the skies cleared and the sun appeared. From weather that made us all ripe for depression, we were suddenly energized by the sun. In large numbers people took to the beaches, nature walks and parks of all sorts, exactly the opposite of the intention of all the measures put in place. “Keep your distance” failed miserably before it ever started. More restrictive measures to protect us from ourselves were immediately imposed.

We Frisians are often seen as ‘cold and unbending’. We don’t greet each other with a handshake every day, let alone a hug or kiss. It’s not in our nature. You shake someone’s hand when you meet for the first time, to congratulate someone or to thank them on special occasions. Perhaps these natural tendencies have now worked in our favour, that the virus has not spread as quickly here in the north.

I began with: The world has had a rude awakening, but …
“The world is going to change because of this terrible virus” is something I hear and read a lot. I have my doubts that this will really happen, and that’s where the ‘but’ comes in.“



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