Coronavirus (Covid-19) in Amsterdam - Everything You Need to Know
UPDATE 25/03/2020: As somewhat predicted, the situation with Coronavirus or Covid-19 in Amsterdam has changed dramatically in the 2-3 weeks since I published this post. There are now thousands of positive cases of Covid-19 in the Netherlands, but there has not been wide testing so it's thought that there are many more cases that have not been tested. There is now an interactive map managed by the Dutch Institute of Public Health (RIVM) where you can see how many cases are reported. I would also recommend reading this article and using the resources it links to.
On 15th March 2020, the Dutch government announced that the country is effectively in a social lockdown with most public spaces closing until at least 6th April, but most people suspect this will be extended. This includes museums, attractions, restaurants, cafes, bars and all non-essential shops. Supermarkets and pharmacies, and shops offering important services, will remain open. Coffee shops and sex clubs are also closed. Coffee shops (selling marijuana products!) have reportedly open for take-out and some restaurants and cafes are still open to honour delivery food orders which you can buy via Deliveroo or Uber Eats.
On 23rd March in response to lots of gatherings and outdoor excursions made by the Dutch people across the country (thanks to a very sunny weekend) additional measures were introduced banning gatherings of more than 3 people, and ordering everyone to stay at least 1.5 metres apart whenever next to another person. They also made further closures of services and shops including hairdressers, nail salons, and casinos. The shops that are staying open are responsible for ensuring people stay the necessary distance apart from each other and they will receive fines if they do not do so. If anybody in a family feels unwell or has a fever, the whole family must stay at home for at least a week. The general rule for all Dutch residents is to stay home unless travelling for work, to get essential shopping or to help someone else with their shopping. You can still go out for a walk or exercise but you must go alone and keep your distance from others.
Some hotels and hostels are still open and others (smaller ones) are choosing to close in order to protect staff and guests. If you still have a hotel or hostel booking your will have to check directly with them if they are open or closed.
Unfortunately, all of these developments mean that Keukenhof Spring Gardens is also not opening this year as planned.
As it currently stands, outdoor public spaces are still open like the city's parks, gardens and playgrounds, but physical distancing is being encouraged and gatherings of more than 3 people will be broken up by police, and potentially fined.
VERY IMPORTANT: Since this blog post was written more information has come to light about how the best way we can contain and limit the spread of Covid-19 in Amsterdam and beyond is to simply limit social interactions and travel. It seems likely that to do this more public institutions, spaces and events will close or be postponed, and more borders will close and flight bans will come into play.
Regardless of the fact that the virus appears to often present with mild symptoms in younger people and those with healthy immune systems, there is still significant risk to those who are immuno-compromised so everyone should be prioritising having less close physical contact with others, especially as it would seem it is possible to carry the virus without having symptoms or only having mild complaints.
Unfortunately, many of Amsterdam's most popular landmarks, museums and sights mean standing close to one another and providing an environment that may mean close physical contact. This is not to mention the risks of flying which force you to be close to other people for a concentrated period of time. I would therefore strongly urge you to do what you can to postpone or cancel your travel to Amsterdam."
ORIGINAL POST - PUBLISHED 6th March 2020s:
It feels funny to be writing this post when I am (as yet!) personally unaffected by the Coronavirus, or more specifically the Covid-19 disease that this strand of a Coronavirus (which other flu-type bugs are) causes, and at the time of writing I'm also not actually in Amsterdam. I'm actually sitting in the bar of a hotel in the beautiful Austrian Alps, having taken the morning off snowboarding thanks to a bruised bottom (not even joking) and a persistent cold (that is NOT Covid-19!).
But I think it's important I write a few words about Coronavirus in Amsterdam as I am getting increasing number questions from people due to visit Amsterdam or considering a trip to Amsterdam and they are worrying A LOT about whether they should or shouldn't travel while this virus spreads. As an Amsterdam resident and somebody who advises travellers to Amsterdam on what they should and shouldn't do, I feel something of a duty to also answer these concerns in a blog post that others can find too. I will do my best to keep it updated but what you read today is up to date as of today's date (6th March 2020).
This article will look at the current status of Coronavirus in Amsterdam and then will move on to the things you should know and think about in relation to this when deciding if you should travel to Amsterdam while the Covid-19 disease continues to spread.
However, before we do any of this I want to highlight three things: Firstly, it's of the UTMOST importance that I stress I am NOT a medical professional in any sense of the word. Nor do I work for or represent any official Amsterdam authorities or organisations. I am an Amsterdam resident, mother of two young boys and a travel writer by profession; it is in this capacity alone that I write this article.
Secondly, I want to direct you to two articles I have found the most helpful in understanding the Covid-19 bug based on expert opinions and what limited available research there is (because it is still a new virus and efforts are focused on containing and vaccinating, not actually doing further indepth research although I am sure this is still happening). This one is a long-ish read and explains how and why the spread of this Coronavirus is something we cannot do too much to stop (but that is actually a good thing - read it to understand why!), and secondly, this Instagram post is much quicker to read captures the key facts about the virus and how it specifically affects children (essentially more good news!).
Thirdly, please also take time to check what your travel insurance policy will or will not cover should you have to cancel for any reason relating to the Coronavirus outbreak. I suspect most insurance companies have a hotline or webpage already set up answering FAQs on this, so please do look for this before you make any decision about whether to travel to Amsterdam or not because of Coronavirus.
DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links. I make a small commission off any purchases made via these links, but they don't cost you anything extra, and often I do a lot of research to find you the best possible deal in the link - yay!
Covid-19/Coronavirus in Amsterdam - The Current Status
As soon as I hit publish on this post it's very likely the situation will change in Amsterdam because that is the very nature of this seemingly highly infectious bug. At the time of writing, this live blog managed by Gemeente Amsterdam (the Municipality/Council of Amsterdam) that is being updated when necessary with the number of confirmed cases in Amsterdam. It is this page that they are keeping updated with any important information for residents so I strongly recommend bookmarking it if you want to stay informed (it's in Dutch but Google Translate works fine).
If you want to know the breakdown of cases known in the Netherlands, this interactive map is from the most official source, the RIVM is also updating this page with numbers of cases and the latest, important information, in Dutch. They also have this page in English.
The Best Resources for Monitoring Coronavirus in Amsterdam
In addition to this page, you should also read this official advice from the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment can be found here, so you can see what residents are being advised. I would also recommend you have a look at this post (in English) sharing important information and advice as published by the University of Amsterdam who have been closely monitoring the situation.
And this is what Amsterdam Marketing (the company responsible for tourism management to the city) are reporting too. These are all pages you should check in on when making a final decision about whether or not you should travel to Amsterdam during the Coronavirus/Covid-19 outbreak.
Am I at Risk of Getting Coronavirus/Covid-19 in Amsterdam?
Compared to many places in the world, Amsterdam is not currently a "hub" of Covid-19 infections... yet. It's truly impossible to tell what the situation will be in one week, one month or six months. It appears very likely that it is going to continue to spread and almost every region in the world will be affected.
If you are planning on travelling to Amsterdam in the imminent future I would actually say - in my (NON-MEDICAL!) opinion that once you are in Amsterdam, the risk of getting Covid-19 is not elevated. All known cases are being managed and a number of people are self-isolating based on exposure risks either in the Netherlands or after visiting affected areas. I know this for a fact because some friends of ours in Amsterdam have been doing this after a family member was potentially exposed.
It would appear that nothing much has changed in Amsterdam. There have been no closures of public institutions like schools, universities or work places. Some companies - like in other cities - are encouraging employees to work from home more, and daycare centres and schools are taking extra precautions like having extra "deep cleans" and not doing handshakes at the school entrance (something that usually happens daily). Public transport is still running and all tourist attractions including museums, and all shops, bars, restaurants etc are open as usual.
The National Health Service (GGD) are making it clear, however, that doctors, hospitals and medical services in Amsterdam are all very busy at this time and so the biggest concern and priority of the government and these institutions is ensuring they are as best prepared as possible for caring for those who are most vulnerable and at risk - i.e. elderly and people with conditions that mean they are immuno-compromised. (It should hopefully go without saying that if you fall into these categories, or you have regular contact with those who do, you should almost certainly not do any unnecessary international travel at this time.)
As I said above, this is a situation that is being monitored and is likely to change, so I would always keep an eye on this live blog and reliable news sources before you travel, but right now, there is no reason to panic and cancel your trip because coming to Amsterdam does not automatically mean you will get the Covid-19 virus.
Many of you, however, will not find this that helpful because your travel is booked for a month's time or further ahead in the future. And yes, that's annoying, not knowing if you should or shouldn't travel to Amsterdam with the Coronavirus the way it currently is. Perhaps my best advice is to share what we are doing for a trip we have booked in early May (to our favourite luxury family resort in Greece). We have made a note of the time we can cancel without losing the majority of our money (just a 10% deposit) and a week before this date we are going to gather as much information as we can and assess it then.
If the deadline has already passed and you don't stand to get any kind of refund for your travel, I would literally wait it out until the last minute and see what the situation is like the day you travel.
Am I at Risk of Getting Coronavirus/Covid-19 While Travelling to Amsterdam?
The travel to Amsterdam, however, is probably where there is more risk right now. This is a similar situation to what my own family faced as we had a long booked holiday to go skiing in Austria this week. We umm-ed and ahh-ed about going almost right to the last minute and it wasn't the destination we were going to but more the potential exposure travelling through a busy airport (Schiphol) and on a packed aeroplane.
As it happened, Schiphol was relatively quiet and we felt like people kept safe distances, used hand sanitizer regularly, and there was a lot of long hand-washing when I was in the public toilets. I was surprised that there weren't more masks being worn but in some ways this was oddly reassuring as the general advice with masks is that they aren't much use unless you are infected yourself.
The fact that Schiphol did seem quieter than we expected (we travel through this airport quite often so know when it's busy or not) makes me think that people are cancelling or postponing their travel plans (both to and from Amsterdam). I have also seen a huge drop in traffic so that tells me that people aren't researching or actively planning travel to Amsterdam right now. I will talk a bit more about that below as this could actually be a REALLY good thing for you.
The plane journey felt less relaxed, but that probably had more to do with travelling with two young children on a very full flight. Our airline (Transavia) didn't give us any additional advice or information regarding Coronavirus, and as far as we knew they weren't cancelling flights in order to fill planes as people but I know that some airlines are doing this and indeed there are many experts predicting that impact of Covid-19 on airlines will be quite huge and indeed it appears to have been the nail in the coffiin for our favourite UK regional airline, FlyBe, that did indeed run Amsterdam routes.
It is my opinion that you are more at risk of getting ANY virus while travelling to Amsterdam (or anywhere!) on any public transit route be it air, train, bus, or boat. Although it's something I nearly ALWAYS advise against, it would appear that driving to Amsterdam (if remotely possible) in your own car would be the safest way to get to Amsterdam, at least to avoid getting an infectious virus!
All this being said, there is currently no flight bans in place preventing flights from certain destinations landing in Schiphol, although the government did issue official warnings against non-essential travel to Italy at the height of the growing spread of the virus in the country at the time. Instead the RVIM are advising for people to self-isolate if returning from affected areas and showing symptoms, it would therefore be my opinion that if you are travelling from any of these regions for an Amsterdam holiday, you should possibly re-think it. You can find out what the Dutch government's advice is to their residents for flying to and from your departure destination by using this page.
Will My Flight/s To and From Amsterdam Be Cancelled?
A big concern of people travelling to Amsterdam is that their flights will get cancelled before, or possibly worth, during their visit. I can imagine this is very worrying as it will then result in you either having to cancel other arrangements and losing money, or will result in you possibly being "stuck" in Amsterdam. Unfortunately, I can't comment on this with any confidence as it's impossible to know what airlines will or won't do in the future.
My best advice is to contact your airline directly and just ask them directly what they plan to do and also what compensation they will offer if flights are cancelled. Likewise make contact with your hotel and other arrangements if you are worried about knock on effect, and yep, also check with your travel insurance where you stand. (If you're flying with KLM I recommend contacting them on Twitter, WhatsApp or Facebook as they have an award-winning customer service response on social media.)
Speaking from an industry perspective, this outbreak is already having a HUGE impact on the airline (and travel) industry and so they really will only cancel flights when they really have to as that is an incredibly expensive practice.
This summary by The Guardian seems to summarise well what's happening and what your rights are in terms of refunds and compensation.
If you want more advice about travelling at this time as the Coronavirus spreads, I highly recommend you check out this post by fellow travel blogger and physician Nadeen of This Sophisticated Life.
Best Ways to Avoid Coronavirus/Covid-19 While Travelling to Amsterdam
At the risk of repeating ALL THE ADVICE that is published everywhere, there are of course ways you can best protect yourself and your fellow travellers when travelling to Amsterdam.
- When you are travelling and when you are in Amsterdam (and just anywhere!) please wash your hands regularly, use alcohol-based hand sanitiser gel (when available) and cough/sneeze into the crook of your elbow or into a tissue that you get rid of immediately. And then wash you hands. And repeat.
- Travel with hand soap - it doesn't have to be antibacterial as Covid-19 is not a bacterial infection but a virus - but this will avoid those moments when you get to a public bathroom and there isn't any soap.
- Unfortunately, you may find that in house and cafe bathrooms there is often only a cold tap available - this is a funny Dutch thing that I still haven't quite got my head around (our house was built with only cold water in the toilets!?!?). While warm water is said to work best, doctors still say that washing your hands with cold water and soap for at least 20 seconds will work effectively.
- If you feel unwell and are sneezing/coughing a lot, or if you are concerned about getting any infection, do what you can to avoid busy and crowded public spaces like museums or busy cafes/restaurants in the centre of town.
- Again, skip the most popular and busiest tourist attractions if you really are fearful of catching Covid-19. Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum, and many other museums in Amsterdam are nearly always crowded regardless of what time you visit them so this may not make for a very relaxing visit anyway. Save it for next time!
- Get outside as much as possible. There are so many things to see and do outside in Amsterdam, if the weather is kind, of course. Markets, parks, canal houses, gardens and famous streets, my favourite things to do outside are included in this list of best free things to do in Amsterdam. And if you're travelling here in the next two months get outside to find all the tulips in Amsterdam, or all the beautiful cherry blossom in Amsterdam.
- Again, if you have concerns about spreading bugs or catching them, avoid using public transport, especially at rush hour. Amsterdam is a very flat and relatively small city, if you can walk or cycle around, do it as there is a much lower risk of catching anything or spreading anything this way.
- If you are feeling unwell (with concerns for Covid-19 or any other reason), unless it is life-threatening please do not go to a hospital, but instead contact the Amsterdam Tourist Doctor for advice on what to do. Going to a hospital could expose you to more infection (including Covid-19), or could potentially expose others and/or put additional unnecessary strain on the medical services.
- In any life-threatening situation, the number to call is 112.
Other Important Things to Know About Coronavirus in Amsterdam (Good & Bad!)
If you are in good health, have always wanted to visit Amsterdam and you aren't too anxious about the Coronavirus, I would say that right now is the best possible time for you to travel to Amsterdam. I go on to explain why below, but in order to keep this article balanced I still want to highlight a few other considerations should you decide to travel to Amsterdam right now, in order to keep yourself and others safe and happy!
- Amsterdam is unusually quiet right now. This is a GOOD THING! It's coming up to the beginning of the tulip season, arguably one of the busiest times of the year in terms of tourist numbers, so you will be in for something of a treat if you do hit up some of the most famous Amsterdam bucket list activities or head out to places like Keukenhof as I suspect crowds will be much smaller.
- You may also find right now that people have tickets for booked-out attractions that can now be used by someone else. I've certainly seen posts like this on Amsterdam Travel Tips Facebook Group, and you should also find it slightly easier to get tickets to the most popular attractions like Anne Frank House.
- It also follows that due to this downturn in travel to Amsterdam you may well be able to find some great deals in the city right now if you did just want to book a last minute trip right now. Check out the best deals on SkyScanner for flights, Booking for hotels, find good Airbnb deals thanks to cancellations, and also be sure to check out Amsterdam's last minute booking offers for tickets to things to do on the day or coming week.
- Like most other parts of the world, Amsterdam (and the Netherlands) is experiencing a surge in "panic-buying" and stock-piling various products including face masks, hand sanitiser gel, tissues, soap, cleaning products, painkillers and other medical supplies. The supermarkets and government are confident that they can keep people in food and essential products, but don't come to Amsterdam right now expecting to be able to buy hand gel or face masks easily.
- With this in mind, please don't stockpile things that other people may need more while in Amsterdam, i.e. face masks, tissues, painkillers, and medical supplies. This is currently the government's number one concern; making sure the most vulnerable to this virus are best protected.
- Likewise, please be considerate of the pressure all the emergency services are under right now. Tourists can be the city's biggest drain on resources at night and weekends (thanks to their over-indulging in certain substances) so maybe just be extra cautious and extra responsible in how you behave while visiting Amsterdam.
- Wherever possible, travel with the essential supplies you may possibly need if you are asked to self-isolate while in Amsterdam. For example, pack more of the prescription medication than the length of time you are travelling for.
- All being well with your trip, I would still advise you perhaps consider reducing social interactions upon your return from your trip for 2-3 days. At any time of year, travel (especially on planes and other enclosed mediums like buses, boats and trains) always exposes us to more infections than non-travelling and in the current climate it may be worth just not doing any non-essential socialising or being in crowded enclosed spaces for a few days after your journey JUST IN CASE. We normally do this anyway after a trip as at least one of our kids (or us!) will catch a cold or bug on the flight. We also have no idea who we are coming into contact with when we are in public; there are so many invisible conditions that may leave someone who looks relatively healthy much more vulnerable than ourselves.
- A recent survey showed that in general, Dutch residents aren't too worried about Coronavirus. This of course may be different now the number of cases are rising rapidly and also we've had our first fatality, but it does somewhat align with the pragmatic and direct ways of the Dutch. They are not ones to get overly-emotional or to panic. So if you are concerned and want to talk about your worries, don't be surprised if the conversation is a little (or very!) one-sided. Dutchies are experts at just getting on with things while also preparing for the worst (and they are - I've seen the empty supermarket shelves with my own eyes!).
Further Reading for Travel During Coronavirus Outbreak
My fellow travel bloggers are writing some great content about travel during this unprecedented time. I've listed some of the best of these articles below as they may also help you plan (or cancel!) your travel.
- Tips for Reducing Your Risk of Getting Covid-19 When Travelling (by a British GP)
- Should You Cancel Your Holiday Because of Coronavirus?
- How to Get a Refund If You do Cancel Because of Covid-19
- Tips for Travelling in a Health Warning
One Final Thing About Coronavirus (& Amsterdam!)
If you are finding this whole outbreak and spread difficult in terms of your mental health, please do not put it under any extra pressure by doing any international travel right now. I am an on-off sufferer of anxiety and so I FULLY understand how stressful the constant flood of mostly bad news about Coronavirus can affect those prone to anxiety, low moods or depression. In this case, your priority should be helping yourself feel better before you do anything that is likely to pile on more stress like international travel.
Amsterdam will hopefully always be here and it can wait. Your mental (and yes, physical!) well-being is always much more important.
Have I answered your questions about the Coronavirus and Amsterdam? If not, let me know your biggest concern right now in the comments and I'll do my best to come back to you with what I know - keeping in mind again that I am not a medical professional or an expert in this virus AT ALL, nor do I represent any official Amsterdam authority or institution.
Save and share this post with a pin:
Frances M. Thompson
Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.