Thursday 29 October 2020

The odd couple: Singer and intensive care doctor launch Covid campaign

A phone showing Famke Louise's Instagram account in front of a visual representation of coronavirus

Famke Louise abandoned the #ikdoenietmeermee campaign to team up with Diederik Gommers. Photo: ANP/Rob Engelaar

Singer and Instagram influencer Famke Louise Meijer has teamed up with intensive care specialist Diederik Gommers to promote better awareness of coronavirus among Dutch young people.

Gommers, 56, head of the national institute for intensive care, started an Instagram account last Thursday on the advice of the 21-year-old social media star and has already racked up more than 200,000 followers.

One of his first posts was an out-of-focus selfie with Famke Louise, who has over a million followers on her account, in his clinic. He told AD.nl he had been overwhelmed by the response: ‘Aside from my son, I’ve had lots of warm and positive responses from people.’

The partnership is the unlikely outcome of Famke Louise’s infamous appearance two weeks ago on TV talk show Jinek, as the public face of a protest by young Dutch celebrities against the coronavirus rules.

The campaign, promoted with the hashtag #ikdoenietmeermee (‘Count me out’), called on people to defy social distancing rules and restrictions on public gatherings to ‘bring the government under control.’

It was organised by the activist group Viruswaarheid (‘Virus Truth’), formerly known as Viruswaanzin (‘Virus Madness’), which has staged protests in The Hague and argues that the government has exaggerated the seriousness of the disease in order to erode people’s rights.

Frustration

Gommers, who was also on the talk show, said he understood the frustration of young people but opting out was not the answer. ‘We’re in a new crisis,’ he said.

Within a day the initiative fell apart as several celebrities withdrew their support. Famke Louise was mocked on social media and verbally abused in the street for her stance. She posted a letter on Instagram saying she regretted her involvement and took up Gommers’s invitation to visit him at the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam.

‘I phoned her every day last week, initially to support Famke because the backlash she received was too strong,’ Gommers told AD. ‘People say things like: she’s getting money for campaigns. But that’s not what concerns me as a doctor. My vocation is to inform people and make sure we all stay healthy.’

Louise said she planned to post a series of livestream chats with Gommers on her YouTube channel to explain the virus and the need for social restrictions, as well as giving viewers the chance to question experts directly.

‘We came up with it together and brainstormed about it together,’ she said. ‘I’ve learned a lot more about the virus and what it does.’

Gommers said: ‘I have children at home as well who say, why is all this necessary? It’s only natural. It’s up to us doctors to make it clear to them. And with Famke I saw that there’s a lot we don’t know, but when I explain to her what a virus does, she’s calmer. I hope that will work for other young people.’

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