Netherlands

Petition to stop open air festival in Breda hits 350,000 signatures

Nearly 350,000 people have signed a petition calling for a party in Breda for 10,000 revellers to be cancelled.

The petition, launched by local surgeon Rogier Crolla, calls the large-scale Fieldlab event a ‘slap in the face’ for coronavirus patients and healthcare workers. But the mayor of Breda, Paul Depla, said the 1.2 million people who applied for tickets also deserved a voice.

The government has defended the €1.1 billion Fieldlab programme as practical experiments that will help organisers understand how to minimise the risk of spreading the virus when social distancing rules are relaxed this summer.

But some independent experts have queried the set-up of the events, particularly the fast coronavirus tests used to check if people are infected and the lack of compulsory testing afterwards.

Depla said the city of Breda still had to decide whether to licence the event, organised in partnership with radio station 538, on April 24. ‘We wil weigh up the arguments carefully and of course that includes the social unrest,’ he told Nieuwsuur.

But he added that it was up to the cabinet to decide whether to endorse Fieldlab events. ‘It’s their initiative, it’s part of their Fieldlab programme,’ he said. ‘We believe it’s a very important programme because it allows us to learn how we can come out of this coronavirus crisis safely.’

A spokesman for the city’s Amphia hospital said that the event could trigger a surge of admissions to accident and emergency at a time when hospitals are already stretched by the rising numbers of coronavirus patients on the wards and in intensive care.

Arnoud van Vliet, leader of the local council’s VVD party group, echoed the hospital’s concerns. ‘The beds are full and people are extremely frustrated by the vaccination strategy,’ he told NOS.

The event has also come under fire from catering sector bosses who are angered by an open-air party being held on the doorsteps of cafes and restaurants that have been closed for months.

‘The fact that this event is being allowed to go ahead at a stone’s throw from bars and restaurants while our sector has been shut down is a huge blow. It feels like a knife in the back,’ said Johan de Vos, vice-chairman of the local branch of catering sector body Koninklijke Horeca Nederland (KHN).

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