THE HAGUE, Netherlands - Filipino organizations in The Netherlands have decided to cancel their scheduled events and meetings this month because of concerns on the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Stichting Bayanihan (Philippine Women Centre in the Netherlands), a leading Filipino women’s organization in The Netherlands, announced on March 11 that it decided not to push through with its annual International Women’s Day (IWD) forum set on March 14.
“We feel that it is our shared responsibility to help in preventing the spread of the COVID-19. The health and well-being of our members, guests and attendees are of utmost importance to us and we are taking this option for the protection of everyone,” the group's statement read.
The women’s self-help organization that provides counselling services to women in crisis situations added that while the IWD 2020 Forum is cancelled, its hotline is still open to those who need services.
Meanwhile, according to a member of the Filipino Migrants in the Netherlands (FILMIS), at least two of their meetings with labor union FNV this month have been cancelled. They are also planning online meetings instead of face-to-face within the organization.
The University of the Philippines Alumni Association in The Netherlands decided as well to postpone its General Assembly Meeting scheduled at the end of March.
Church masses, which many Filipinos attend, are still being held, although precautionary measures were advised by the Dutch Bishops Conference. The Filipino Catholic communities in the Netherlands are also busy with preparations for the Holy Week that might have some changes in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, according to public broadcaster NOS, for the first time in many years, there will be no Dutch flowers to the Vatican during the Pope’s Easter public mass. The Dutch have supplied the flowers for the past 35 years, but this year, the chief arranger has decided to cancel the appointment because of the coronavirus outbreak.
“Given the developments and the measures which have been taken in Italy, we have decided not (to) take any risks,” Paul Deckers told NOS. The basilica is closed to tourists until at least April 3.
There are also concerns among Filipino migrants who work outside their homes on a daily basis. So far, according to Genibe Molabin, a leader at FILMIS, most of her Dutch employers do not cancel work and have positive attitude about the whole situation. But she expressed worry for those who don’t have proper documents but need to work to earn a living since they are less protected by law.
Migrante-The Hague chairperson Corazon Espanto said their members continue their work as usual, but concerns are raised by migrants who are on temporary visas, such as victims of violence. She said information is important to assure the vulnerable groups.
As of March 12, there are 503 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and five deaths in the Netherlands, according to the national health institute RIVM.
Almost half the total number of patients, 223, are from Noord-Brabant province.
Of the total known cases, 199 patients got their infections abroad, mainly in northern Italy, and the source of 92 infections has not yet been established.
All five people who died in the Netherlands were elderly and had underlying serious health issues, the RIVM said.
So far, the Netherlands has not imposed stringent or draconian measures in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. It has faced criticisms from abroad for being “too weak, too little, too late, too official.”
But national health institute (RIVN) chief Jaap van Dissel, a professor of internal medicine, told national media science dictates things. He said the Dutch approach is to contain as much as possible the virus by concentrating on target areas.