Holland’s much earlier exit from lockdown makes it somewhere the UK can look to for a hint of our own future.
I have done it many times before, but this time flying across the North Sea felt like crossing Checkpoint Charlie: from a dark, angry Heathrow into a bright, vibrant Schiphol. Mid-June we had had enough of Matt Hancock, lockdowns and the decelerating easing of rules, so we decided to spend the summer in Amsterdam. When we arrived on 21 June, the lockdown was already lifted. Pubs and restaurants were open with enlarged outside terraces and all shops without the yellow-vest stewards and silly signs.
Holland’s covid response could be described as like Sweden’s but with an official, ‘intelligent’ lockdown that stressed individual responsibility rather than oppressive rules. The official death toll is 6,159 (equivalent to 23,275 for a UK-sized population), with 97% aged over 60 years and only four under-30 deaths (more young people drowned in the sea this summer). The difference from the UK and other more restrictive countries, in my view, is that the people are no longer afraid and have accepted they have to live with this virus. There are generally no face masks on the streets (but they are useful for identifying tourists). Most people worked through the lockdown and took their traditional summer holidays by car or sailing boat. Despite the efforts of the green-left mayor to enforce face masks and restart the panic, one could argue that Amsterdam may hold some clues about how life after lockdown hysteria may look elsewhere.