After the gloomy winter months of a coronavirus lockdown, buds of hope emerged in the spring as restrictions were relaxed in a Dutch flower garden and other public places.
Under a government-approved pilot plan, the world-famous Keukenhof Garden opened its doors to allow a few thousand people to tiptoe through the 7 million tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and a myriad of other meticulously planted flowers. hand in his manicured gardens by a small army of gardeners.
A maximum of 5,000 visitors, located in the middle of the flat bulb fields between Amsterdam and The Hague, were allowed into the garden if they could show evidence that they had just tested negative for COVID-19.
Minke Kleinen, who visited the central city of Arnhem with her friend Ilse van Egten, said it felt like her “first legal day”. The friends did quick tests before leaving and received their negative results by email while they were driving.
“It feels strange that we can be side by side,” Van Egten said, giving Kleinen a quick hug. “It is nice!”
The Keukenhof lost an entire season last year to the pandemic when the first deadly wave of infections swept through the Netherlands. The opening scheduled for March 20 this year never happened due to the country’s strict virus lockdown.
The limited opening, six days spread over two weeks in April, is welcome for the 40 gardeners who spend months preparing for the annual spring season. In a typical year, the garden the size of 50 football fields can host 10 times as many visitors per day.
The park manager, Bart Siemerink, had mixed feelings.
“Of course, happy today. It is the first day of Keukenhof 2021, “he said, but added that the park still felt different with a relatively small number of visitors.
“So it’s a good feeling that we can open up, but this is not Keukenhof like it’s supposed to be,” he said.
In the years leading up to the pandemic, Keukenhof’s trails, park benches and cafes are filled with visitors from around the world taking photos and selfies with one of the Netherlands’ most iconic products: the tulip.
On Friday, small groups of visitors were scattered across the lawn. You could get a plate of poffertjes, a Dutch delight of small pancakes covered in icing sugar, without having to wait in a long line.
The Dutch government announced this week that hundreds of public places would be allowed to reopen under strict conditions to assess whether rapid tests can safely help the country ease coronavirus restrictions amid rising vaccine levels and warmer weather.
Under the scheme, visitors to the Keukenhof, as well as museums, zoos and other venues, can enter if they apply for a ticket online and get a negative virus test within 40 hours of their visit. All virus tests are free and the result is emailed to the person tested within one hour. That code, in turn, can be scanned at the locations.
The tests are done against the background of stubbornly high infections that have started to wane in the past week after months of lockdown.
Health Minister Hugo de Jonge sees the limited vacancies as a way to return to normal life as vaccines reach more and more people.
Visiting the Keukenhof was a privilege for those who entered.
“This is a gift,” said blogger Berry de Nijs. “It feels great today. Anyway, the weather is nice … but walking among the tulips is fantastic! “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism