At least 180 infected after Dutch disco despite showing Covid-19 certificates

Suspected mass spreading event in city of Enschede brings scrutiny on 'test for entry' system

A representative of the nightclub told local media that the venue had done “everything in our power to get visitors in safely”. Photograph: Getty Images

So far 180 people out of roughly 650 who attended a disco in the eastern Dutch city of Enschede have tested positive for Covid-19, despite them having to show a negative test or proof of vaccination on entry.

The number was revised up from 165 on Monday.

The suspected mass spreading event has brought under scrutiny the implementation of the Netherlands’ “test for entry” system and a decision to drop almost all Covid-19 restrictions, as the number of national daily infections reported on Sunday was 145 per cent higher than a week earlier.

The local health authority said the number of cases among people who attended the event could rise still further.


“The source and contact investigation is in full swing. We will try to get a complete picture as soon as possible,” the public health service of Twente region said in a statement, calling on all those who attended to self-isolate and take a test.

The event at the ski-themed Aspen Valley nightclub in Enschede town centre on Saturday, June 26th was the first to be held there in 15 months, on the day that the Netherlands dropped most of its Covid-19 restrictions.

Customers could attend the party without face masks or any distancing requirement if they had a ticket and showed certification of a Covid-19 vaccination or negative test.

The tests used were free, rapid antigen tests, which are quicker and cheaper than PCR tests but have a higher rate of false negatives.

‘One big drama’

Tim Boxem, a 20-year-old who attended the event, told an interviewer with local newspaper Tubantia that nine out of his 18 friends who attended had tested positive for Covid-19 since the event. When he attended a Covid-19 test centre after developing symptoms himself, "Everyone in front of and behind me in the queue for tests had been to Aspen Valley," he told the newspaper. "It's one big drama."

Mr Boxem also suggested that Covid certificates had been tampered with by customers, such as by sharing screenshots of negative tests. “There was cheating going on everywhere,” he said.

Photos of the event on social media showed young people with wristbands mingling closely, drinking shots and posing in large groups in the tightly-packed wood-panelled venue.

A representative of the nightclub told local media that the venue had done “everything in our power to get visitors in safely”.

“Something that does bother me is that customers can do their test 40 hours in advance,” Tommy de Groot of Aspen Valley told newspaper Tubantia. “So someone gets tested on Friday afternoon, goes to football practice, has a beer with friends and then comes to us 33 contacts later.”

Local media have also reported that people have been issued with vaccination certificates within a day of receiving the one-shot Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine, though the manufacturer advises that protection does not take full effect until about two weeks later.

The Netherlands dropped requirements for face masks indoors on June 26th, and businesses that check for certificates showing a negative test, proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19 are exempt from requirements to maintain 1.5 metres distance between customers.

More than 60 per cent of people in the Netherlands have had at least one Covid-19 vaccination, one of the highest rates in Europe, and this week the country began vaccinating children aged 12 and over.

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times