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Blast strikes Dutch COVID-19 test centre, police call it an attack

Blast strikes Dutch COVID-19 test centre, police call it an attack
March 3, 2021

BOVENKARSPEL, Netherlands (Reuters) - A blast struck a coronavirus testing centre north of Amsterdam before sunrise on Wednesday, shattering windows but causing no injuries in what police called an intentional attack.

An explosives team visited the site in the town of Bovenkarspel, 55 km (35 miles) from the capital, where police said a metal cylinder involved in the explosion had been recovered.

It “must have been placed” there, police spokesman Menno Hartenberg told Reuters. “Something like that doesn’t just happen by accident.”

The head of the public health service called for “the swift arrest of the perpetrator”.

“Our people throughout the country are working hard to protect society from this pandemic,” André Rouvoet, head of the health service said. “Such a cowardly act of destruction does not only affect our employees in Bovenkarspel. This affects us all.”

A security guard in the testing centre alerted police to a “loud blast” that broke several windows shortly before 7 a.m., a police statement said.

The incident comes shortly before national elections on March 17 widely seen as a referendum on the government’s handling of the pandemic.

Anger at healthcare authorities has increased since the start of 2021, with the head of the National Institute for Health now accompanied by a security detail.

Another test location in the nearby town of Urk was burned down during several days of rioting in January sparked by the introduction of a nighttime curfew.

“After the incident in Urk we ramped up security as I think most locations across the Netherlands did,” said Harry Katstra, spokesman for the Hollands Noorden regional health service.

Bovenkarspel, a rural town, is currently suffering one of the Netherlands’ worst COVID-19 outbreaks, with 181 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, compared with around 27 per 100,000 nationally. At least one hospital has sent patients to other provinces due to a lack of intensive care beds.

Wednesday was the first day in several months when Dutch lockdown measures were slightly eased, with hairdressers reopening and non-essential stores accepting a small number of customers by appointment.