In the next revival of the coronavirus, politicians must pay more attention to people’s behavior. To stem a new wave, it is better for the government to introduce measures that are epidemiologically less useful, but which are followed, than the other way around. This appears from a comprehensive report from fourteen organizations and advisory boards, including the Scientific Council for Government Policy.
The report has around 150 pages of recommendations. These are focused on different scenarios where the coronavirus still plays a role in the future. The scenarios range from colds (people have minor complaints) to worst case, where mutations make the virus more lethal and seriously disrupt society. Then there is a code black, and the hospitals can no longer admit patients.
For each scenario, the organizations provide recommendations in different areas. For example, they advise educational institutions in the worst case to see if teaching in the open is possible. And to avoid hoarding in supermarkets, food and medicine vouchers could be handed out.
In a less severe scenario (‘continuous battle’) there is vaccination, but the virus mutates faster than the vaccines can keep up. If we reach that stage again, according to the report, it is a possibility that teaching uses ‘intermediate forms’, where half the classes come to school at different parts of the day.
“Are we prepared enough?”
“We have to think about what needs to happen for each scenario,” says Jet Bussemaker, chairman of the Council for Public Health and Society, speaking on behalf of the fourteen organisations.
“Suppose there is code black, how do we deal with it? Let age play a role in the intensive care unit? Medical specialists had created a scenario where age was a criterion, but it was dropped at the request of the House of Representatives. Who came back from the six months later,” Bussemaker said. “So it’s better to have a discussion about it now.”
According to Bussemaker, distance and barrier measures, for example, must now also be taken into account. “Does this also apply to nursing homes where we have seen people die without family?” She warns against waiting too long. “Then you have to make quick decisions, and that can reduce support.”
“Is it necessary?”
“I understand that people think ‘please don’t talk about corona for a while’,” continues Bussemaker. “But the government, the House of Representatives and, for example, school and prison boards must ask themselves whether they are adequately prepared.”
She points out that the government must take responsibility. Bussemaker: “You can’t just listen to an OMT and say that the sectors just have to keep doing it. The politicians have to make that very complicated value balancing.”
Bussemaker is part of the newly established Social Impact Team (MIT), which, in addition to OMT, can advise the cabinet on possible measures.
Autumn and winter
“By preparing now, you anticipate autumn and winter well,” emphasizes epidemiologist Alma Tostmann (Radboudumc). “Now that things have calmed down, you can talk to all parties about what you want to do and how you are going to communicate this. This prevents all possible decisions from having to be made ad hoc again,” explains Tostmann in the announcement . . NOS Radio 1 News from. She was not a co-author of the report.
It is difficult to predict how big that wave will be in the autumn and winter, the epidemiologist believes. “It depends in part on how many people will take the repeat shot, which will be offered starting this month.”
The report does not discuss how effective measures taken in the past have been. Epidemiologist Tostmann draws a lesson from the previous waves. “If you see that the infections and hospitalizations are increasing, it is better to introduce measures such as mouth masks and homework a little earlier. This is to avoid having to implement stricter measures later, to keep the care somewhat upright,” says Tostmann.
‘From crisis to crisis’
“Public administration also appears to be running from crisis to crisis,” the report says. “In addition to the corona crisis, the national government last year talked about a nitrogen crisis, a climate crisis, a housing crisis and an asylum crisis.” A risk of this is that there is not much attention paid to things that are not considered to be a crisis at the time, such as corona. “There is a risk that politics and society only start to prepare when a new crisis comes, when in reality it is too late to prepare.”
Bussemaker sees that too. “It is politically specific, you don’t want to create more problems than absolutely necessary. In addition, in politics you are often busy in the short term. But we believe that we must learn from recent years and that must be discussed.”