Explosion at COVID Test Center in Likely Intentional Attack, Police Say

An explosion caused damage to a coronavirus test center in a small Dutch town early on Wednesday in what police suspect was an intentional attack.

Police in the province of North Holland say the device went off near the testing center in Bovenkarspel—located around 35 miles north of the capital, Amsterdam—just before 7 a.m.

The blast shattered five windows but no one was injured, police said. National broadcaster NOS reported that a security guard was inside the center at the time of the blast but he was not harmed.

Officials cordoned off the area around the test center and an explosives team was sent to the site in order to investigate the incident. Pieces of metal from the explosive device were found outside the front of the test center.

North Holland police spokesperson Menno Hartenberg told Reuters that the metal device measured approximately 10 by 10 centimeters (4 by 4 inches.)

He said that clearly the device did not get there by accident and "must have been placed there."

"We don't know yet exactly what exploded, the explosives experts must first investigate," Hartenberg said. "What we're saying is that something like that doesn't just happen by accident, it has to be laid."

The spokesperson said it is currently not clear who is responsible for the blast or what their motive may have been.

National elections are scheduled to be held in the Netherlands on March 17—seen by many as a referendum on the government's handling of the pandemic, Reuters reported.

Health care authorities in the Netherlands have faced rising anger in recent weeks, to the extent that the country's National Institute of Health now has to be accompanied by security personnel.

In January, another test center was burned down in the fishing village of Urk—located in the Flevoland province—during several days of rioting, which began after the government introduced a night-time curfew extending between 9 p.m. and 4:30 a.m.

Deputy Prime Minister of the Netherlands and Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport, Hugo de Jonge, described the planting of the explosive device as "insane" in a Twitter post.

"For over a year now, we have relied heavily on the people on the front lines. And then this. Insane. Let's stay behind the people who are working hard to get us out of this crisis," he said on Monday.

While the circumstances of the explosion are still unknown, Mayor Ronald Wortelboer of the Stede Broec—which includes the town of Bovenkarspel—told local news site AD.nl that resistance to coronavirus restrictions may have been the motivation.

"I understand that there are people who are frustrated by the corona situation and all the measures," he said. "It is a great good that you can sometimes disagree wholeheartedly with each other in our society, but with that freedom also comes the duty to express this in a decent way."

Dutch police tape around crime scene
Stock image showing Dutch police tape. A blast caused damage to a COVID-19 test center in a small Dutch town on Wednesday.