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Do You Speak Corona? In Fryslân, the health situation is good, the language not so much

“In Fryslân we have hardly any problems. Only 564 of the 600,000 inhabitants are infected. The number of deaths from Covid is only 63 in our province” – says on the situation Pier Bergsma, the Chairman of Ried fan den Fryske Movement. “In total there are 5590 deaths in the Netherlands to date for a population of 17 million, 27 hospital admissions yesterday and 410 in intensive care. So it is going in the right direction”, he adds. (Editor’s note: the conversation took place on 13 May, the numbers are accurate of that date.)

The only specific problem is that there is no information in Frisian in the national newspapers, everything is in Dutch. “We receive information from national newspapers and television. Our Frisian station Omrop Fryslân also provides regular information”, says Mr Bergsma. Language loss is a clear and present danger in the Frisian community, and the Chairman offered two examples of this from the curent situation. “A Frisian expert came last week to explain things. She started in Frisian, but after a short time changed to Dutch. This is often the case in our province” – said Mr Bergsma. Another example is the case of a Frisian medical staff person interviewed on the Frisian television, Omrop Fryslân, who spoke Dutch.

Otherwise, the Netherlands and Fryslân is slowly going back to normality. The death rate is decreasing, and primary schools restarted on Monday 11 May. For now, pupil go to school two days a week in groups, one group on Monday-Tuesday, then comes a day for cleaning, and the other group comes on Thursday-Friday. Secondary schools will start in June. Public transport is also restarting, from 2 June citizens are allowed to use trains, but wearing a mask during travel will be compulsory.

During April 2020 FUEN has conducted a survey entitled Do You Speak Corona? on the situation of European minorities during the pandemic. The online questionnaire focused on the availability of information related to COVID-19 in general, healthcare information related to the outbreak, the existence of an emergency hotline operated in minority language and the availability of online education in minority language. The short report on the results is here and you can download the whole report in PDF format by clicking here.

This series of case studies is the continuation of the Do You Speak Corona? project.

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