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Cabinet ignoring Safety Board’s Covid-advice, chairman says

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The Cabinet has done almost nothing with the Dutch Safety Board’s (OVV) coronavirus advice, chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem said to the Volkskrant. According to him, the government lacks self-reflection. “Now we are at the beginning of the next wave of contamination, and many things have simply not been picked up.”

At the beginning of this year, the OVV published a critical report on the government’s approach to the first six months of the coronavirus crisis. One of the criticisms was that the government paid too little attention to nursing homes in the first wave. The OVV also advised the government to improve its crisis approach by developing more scenarios and improving how it improvises to be better prepared for the next “society-disrupting crisis.”

Dijsselbloem now concludes that little has come of this. “It is not really acceptable that there are still no elaborate and well-considered scenarios,” he said to the Volkskrant. “It is not really acceptable that the Minister of Public Health, Welfare, and Sports still does not have the authority to tell hospitals or the GGDs what to do in a crisis situation. We think it is very urgent to arrange as soon as possible that a Minister can act in a crisis situation.”

The OVV chairman also sees that Dutch legislation offers few tools for the government to act decisively now that the temporary law that regulated the coronavirus measures has lapsed. “We’ll have to start pretty much from scratch again.”

In April, the Cabinet announced in a letter that it agreed with the OVV’s conclusions. However, the Dutch Safety Board is annoyed that Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s signature was missing from that announcement as he “formally took charge” in the coronavirus crisis, said Dijsselbloem. “He chaired the most important consultations and was the face to the outside world, the most important minister. But when it comes to accountability, looking back, and drawing lessons for the future, his name is missing. Strange, isn’t it?”

Public Health Minister Ernst Kuipers said he will study the Dutch Safety Board’s criticism of his coronavirus strategy, but he is still committed to the great emphasis he places on the agreements with various sectors. He believes that policy should be “a combination” of government intervention and measures by society, and said that the OVV also sees it that way. He argued that the OVV wrongly insinuated that the Cabinet does not want to do anything. 

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