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Explosion at Dutch COVID-19 test center appears intentional, police say

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Dutch police on Wednesday announced a coronavirus testing center north of Amsterdam appeared to have been intentionally targeted after an explosion occurred at the facility before it opened.

The explosion in the town of Bovenkarspel, 55 km north of the capital, shattered windows but left no injuries, police in the province of North Holland said in a statement.

They said they cordoned off the area to investigate. The incident comes shortly before the national elections on March 17, widely seen as a referendum on the government’s handling of the pandemic. Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservative VVD party will likely remain the biggest, according to opinion polls.

The metal remains of the explosive, approximately 10 cm by 10 cm (4 inches by 4 inches), were found on the front of the building and “must have been placed” there, the police spokesman said. Menno Hartenberg at Reuters.

“We don’t yet know exactly what exploded, the explosives experts need to investigate first,” Hartenberg said.

“What we’re saying is something like this doesn’t just happen by accident, it has to be asked,” the spokesperson said.

The area around Bovenkarspel, a rural town, is currently suffering from one of the worst outbreaks of COVID-19 in the Netherlands, with 181 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to around 27 per 100,000 nationally. At least one hospital has been forced to send patients to other provinces due to lack of space in its intensive care units.

Wednesday marks the first day in several months in which lockdown measures in the Netherlands have been relaxed slightly, with the reopening of hairdressers and non-essential shops allowed to accept small numbers of visitors by appointment. A nighttime curfew from 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. remains in effect.

Anger against health authorities has increased since the start of 2021 and the head of the country’s National Institute of Health is now accompanied by a security detail during public appearances.

A security guard was inside the test center when the explosive detonated, but was not injured, the national television station NOS reported.

(Reporting by Toby Sterling and Bart Meijer; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Toby Chopra and Giles Elgood)

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