ANXIOUS TIMES David Padden from Belmullet is based in The Netherlands.
“AS of Sunday at 6pm, it was announced that schools were closing along with cafes, restaurants and bars and non-essential shops. As early as last Thursday the Netherlands said it would not be closing down schools as there was no evidence that shows it helps, but in the following 72 hours there was a backlash from people in the medical and educational fields and the government has done a sharp u-turn.
I work in an international school of over 2000 students and this has been welcomed. The student population is very diverse with students from all over the world. I know students have been in affected regions of Europe during the half-term some weeks ago and as early as two weeks ago we were asking families to self-isolate and seek medical advice before a return to school.
Like everywhere the situation has changed as people finally realise the seriousness of what is happening. I follow the local news as much as my limited Dutch skills allow me and also keep a close eye on RTE.ie. It was clear that Ireland has been proactive and decisive about this and this is something that has even been reported here.
From speaking to family members, the level of concern just seemed greater; here people seemed more relaxed. Last week Irish journalist Naomi O’Leary, who is based in the Netherlands, wrote an article for the Irish Times about how the Dutch sense of false security has helped spread the virus by not implementing effective early measures.
This gained traction amongst local people via social media and my Dutch colleagues agreed with her points.
I read another long post online from a British writer, Ben Coates, who has written books about Dutch society. His theory is that the Dutch have had a relatively peaceful and prosperous history and this leads people to assume all things will be ‘ok’ and business can carry on as usual. I felt personally that was the reaction to many people towards the outbreak. One of, ‘it's not going to affect us and it will pass’.
Even today (Monday), the streets were busy in the shopping areas yet the news is reporting that hospitals are under pressure in the south of the country as cases increase and the government is warning people against ‘hamsteren’ – a widespread term I have heard a lot of in the last 24 hours which is basically hoarding up on food supplies.
On Sunday the government announced on a live TV broadcast an immediate suspension on sports club training, along with a ban on fitness clubs, and indeed sex clubs, until further notice.
I am always amazed by the way the Dutch can speak a very matter of fact about these things!
Our local GAA club had the first round of the Benelux Championship planned for the weekend of March 21. It’s a tournament format with lots of visiting teams and as early as last week the European GAA Committee postponed it and the following one on April 18.
Our collective training stopped last week and our coach, Rory Duffy (a Kilmeena man), will be sending on some fitness plans in the next few weeks.
I think places like Mayo hopefully will not be hit hard by this due to its geographic location, but then again you just don't know. In our family – across Mayo, London, Newry and The Hague – we’re all talking and hoping it won't be serious and finally realising what we have to do in order for that to be the case.
I have been impressed from afar by the local response and what people are saying online in Mayo. Belmullet GAA club tweeted on Sunday offering help for people who need it and even if nobody avails of this, it’s comforting to know that people care.
So for the next few weeks it’s stay indoors for all of us, no matter where we are, and just follow the rules.”
David Padden is a former Belmullet goalkeeper now living and working in the Netherlands. He is a brother of Mayo News columnist Billy Joe Padden and son of Mayo GAA legend Willie Joe.
“LIFE at the moment has changed for the worst, definitely.
It's very sort of bleak around here at the moment. You have businesses shutting down or limiting capacity, which is worse for people in the restaurant or bar industry where you have a lot of Irish people.
A friend of mine was telling me on Friday that between eight and ten staff were laid off in one bar due to the lack of people out and about. And for that industry, in particular, January and February are the slow months and when you come up to St Patricks Day in March in New York, you're expecting a big jump in revenue so it's really difficult for them right now, particularly in light of the fact that you have no welfare system here to fall back on like in Ireland.
I myself, thankfully, am one of the lucky ones in that I’ve worked from home for the last few of weeks, but it’s sort of unclear what will happen in the next couple of weeks. I know some areas are implementing curfews and various things like that, such as Hickok and New Jersey, who are amongst the first to do that.
In terms of sport, I know New York GAA have shut down training and matches over the next couple of weeks. Salthill-Knocknacarra were due to play New York this weekend for St Patrick’s Day and that has been cancelled.
I know, having spoken to some of the lads, that New York aren't training collectively as they prepare for Galway in a couple months time and there’s probably big question marks over whether that game will go ahead now. A lot of gyms the lads are using are shutting down as well.
I’m hearing a lot from family at home. I know the travel ban comes in from Tuesday (today). Luckily, I am just back in New York having been in Ireland. Having spoken to a few people, I know J1s are cancelled for the foreseeable and that's causing a lot of disappointment for some of the students. So it’s a very similar situation here that it is in Ireland.
“It’s very hard to know what is going to happen over the next couple of months.”
Ray Holian is a native of Balla, living and working in the finance sector in New York City. He is a former Balla footballer who currently plays with the Mayo club New York. He was head trainer of the New York team who played Mayo in last year’s Connacht Championship.