An improvised explosive device (IED) detonated at a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) testing center north of Amsterdam in the Netherlands before sunrise on Wednesday, March 3.
- The facility is in the town of Bovenkarspel, located about 35 miles north of Amsterdam.
- The explosion shattered windows of testing center, but caused no injuries.
The region around the rural town of Bovenkarspel is currently suffering one of the Netherlands’ worst COVID-19 outbreaks, with an average of 181 confirmed cases per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to the national rate of about 27 per 100,000.
- At least one hospital in the region has been forced to send patients to other provinces due to lack of space in its intensive care units.
Dutch police have described the incident as an intentional attack.
- An explosives team deployed to the scene to examine the device, according to a statement attributed to police in the province of North Holland.
- Authorities found metal remains of the explosive device, measuring approximately 4 inches by 4 inches in size, in front of the testing center building.
Police spokesman Menno Hartenberg stated the device “must have been placed” there, adding, “Something like that doesn’t just happen by accident, it has to be laid.” A security guard at the COVID-19 testing center alerted police, reporting a “loud blast” that broken several windows.
National elections in the Netherlands take place in 2 weeks – on Wednesday, March 17. The vote is widely viewed as a referendum on the current government’s handling of the pandemic.
Public frustration and anger with national government authorities and health care officials has escalated since the start of 2021.
- During the last week of January 2021, rioters burned down a drive-through COVID-19 testing facility in the fishing village of Urk on the first night of a nationwide curfew – 9:00 pm to 4:30 am – imposed nationwide imposed as part of the government’s efforts to curtail spread of the virus.
- Over the three-day period from January 24 to 26, riots against the curfew and other COVID-19 restrictions occurred throughout the Netherlands, most notably the major cities of Amsterdam, Eindhoven, and Rotterdam.
- Extra security has been provided to some locations due to threats and vandalism.
- The head of the Netherlands’ National Institute for Health is now accompanied full-time by a security detail.
Commenting on the apparent attack in Bovenskarpel this morning, Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge posted a comment on Twitter deriding the targeting of a health care facility: “For more than a year we have been leaning on these people on the front lines and now this. Insane.”
Significantly, today – Wednesday, March 3 – is the first day in several months when the highly restrictive measures imposed to limit business and leisure activities are being eased slightly.
- Non-essential retail stores reopen today for the first time since mid-December 2020 – authorized to accept a limited number of customers by appointment.
- Hair salons, masseurs, and other “contact professionals” may reopen as well – on condition they adhere to strict social distancing and hygiene measures.