Experts demand ‘clarity’ about coronavirus policy: Telegraaf

Washing your hands is key to controlling the virus. Photo:
Washing your hands is key to controlling the virus. Photo:

Greater clarity is needed about where the government coronavirus policy is heading to avoid further damage from harmful measures, experts have told the Telegraaf.

Confusion rules since the government decided to backtrack on the relaxation of the rules in July, the paper claims, and it must now clarify if the measures are meant to minimise the number of infections or to avoid intensive care wards from filling up again at the expense of regular health care.

‘Measures are only justifiable if hospitals get into trouble,’ Leiden virologist Louis Kroes told the paper. ‘Numbers mean very little. The number of infections shot up but hospital care was not threatened. The goals cited by the government earlier – protection of hospital care and the vulnerable – were not affected.’

At the same time, Kroes said, a new mantra surfaced: that of ‘now no one is dying we are doing it to avoid code red’. It is time the government made clear which elements determine policy, Kroes said.

Marcel Levi, former head of a group of London hospitals, agrees that harmful measures must come to an end some time. ‘We have come to a point where we need to look at the number of actual hospitalisations,’ Levi said, citing events in Britain where despite the relaxation of the rules infections have not increased. ‘They do insist on hand washing and face masks, however,’ he said.

Levi also said the Dutch could take a leaf out of the British health department’s book as far as planning is concerned. ‘We do not have a master plan, and every press conference brings new surprises. In Britain the authorities have linked numbers to measures and communicate them to the public.’


Virologist Ab Osterhaus does think the number of infections is important and says a strategy should be in place to minimise them, in order to avoid ‘yoyoing between relaxation and tightening up the measures.’

He cited the situation in Australia where a long lockdown prevented this from happening. Osterhaus said it would be better to wait until around 90% of people have been vaccinated before lifting most restrictions.

In a reaction, the health ministry admitted that the old roadmap was no longer fit for purpose and will be updated. The main elements – IC capacity, R number, infections, and vaccination rate – would be put in a longer term context, a spokesman for the ministry said.

‘Vaccination is crucial and influences the relationship between elements,’ a spokesman for the ministry told the paper. However, other factors, like the emergence of new variants and uncertainty about the protection period of the vaccines can complicate matters, he said.

A short press conference has been announced for Monday at 12am. The next regular press conference is scheduled for Friday August 13.

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