Health minister condemns blast at Dutch virus test centre

·2 min read

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A blast smashed five windows at a coronavirus testing centre in a small Dutch town early Wednesday, police said. Nobody was hurt in the explosion, which was condemned by the government and health officials.

“For more than a year, we've been leaning heavily on the people on the front line. And then this. Crazy,” Health Minister Hugo de Jonge tweeted.

The head of the country’s umbrella organization for local health services that carry out coronavirus testing called the blast a “cowardly act.”

“Our people have to be able to do this crucial work safely,” Andre Rouvoet tweeted.

Police in the province of North Holland tweeted that “an explosive went off” near the testing centre in Bovenkarspel just before 7 a.m. Police cordoned off the area, which is 60 kilometres (40 miles) north of Amsterdam, and were investigating the cause of the blast.

Police spokesman Menno Hartenberg said it was unclear whether the testing centre was deliberately targeted or when the facility would be able to reopen.

He said it was clear that the explosive didn't "get there by accident. But we have no idea at the moment who exactly left it there and what the intention was.”

Police said a metal cylinder that had exploded was found outside the building.

The northern regions of North Holland province have been identified as a virus hotspot in recent weeks, with infection numbers higher than the national average.

In January, rioters torched a coronavirus test facility in the fishing village of Urk on the first night of a 9 p.m.-to-4:30 a.m. nationwide curfew imposed as part of the government’s latest coronavirus lockdown.

Attacks health workers and facilities around the world have increased amid the COVID-19 pandemic. A new report by the Geneva-based Insecurity Insight and the University of California, Berkeley’s Human Rights Center identified more than 1,100 threats or acts of violence against health care workers and facilities last year.

Some Dutch lockdown restrictions were relaxed Wednesday with hairdressers, masseurs and other “contact professions” allowed to reopen if they adhere to strict social distancing and hygiene measures.

Nonessential shops also were allowed to reopen in the Netherlands for the first time since mid-December, though only to very limited numbers of customers who make an appointment in advance.

___

Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

___

The Associated Press