From festival cabins to family contact - Dutch firm gets the old out of isolation

AMSTERDAM, April 14 (Reuters) - A Dutch company that usually makes portable rooms for festivals has switched its business model for the coronavirus crisis, revamping cabins into spaces where the elderly can safely meet visitors.

The Netherlands has banned all public gatherings, including festivals, until June 1, with restrictions likely to continue beyond that. Social distancing measures have been in place since March 16, with no end in sight.

Flexotels has begun outfitting its pop-up cabins with a glass dividing wall and intercoms, which at least allow easy conversation, albeit without touching, and supplying them to care homes.

“Worst thing of the coronavirus is that people are dying from it, but the second worst thing is that, especially handicapped and old people are getting very lonely because they cannot receive any visitors and some ... of them don’t understand why,” said Flexotels commercial director Hans van Keulen.

“It’s safe, it’s convenient, they can have 15 appointments on a day - so we are making a lot of people happy.”

A woman named Gijsbers who had just visited her father at the Hof Van Bluyssen nursing home agreed:

“It was a beautiful visit, certainly when you see so little of each other. And it’s a different kind of contact from over the phone - especially when someone can’t hear very well, which is the case with my father.”

“It’s not a cash-cow for us,” van Keulen added. “But at least we can pay our staff and we can keep our company alive for festival season 2021.” (Reporting by Esther Verkaik; Editing by Kevin Liffey)