Experts advise more local measures, better communication in pandemic approach
Experts from various fields are speaking to the Ministry of Public Health's "Lessons Learned" team on Tuesday, to give advice on which parts of the coronavirus approach should be preserved and what could be done better and differently to prevent or limit a second wave of the virus in the autumn. Most of the invited experts wrote a contribution in advance and they advise things like making more distinction between coronavirus measures in the open air and indoors, taking measures as locally and regionally as possible, more and faster testing, and better communication to the public, including by holding regular press conferences again, NOS reports based on the scientists' contributions.
Groningen professor Jochen Mierau, director of the Aleltta Jacobs School of Public Health, wrote that it is essential to base future lockdown measures on local and regional situations as much as possible, in order to limit damage to the economy. He wants to set up around seven health regions that determine the regional corona policy. These health regions can be built on the ten existing regional networks for combatting antibiotic resistance - everyone involved in infectious diseases is already at these tables. Mierau also thinks that scientific research and policy should be more separated, instead of leaving everything with public health institute RIVM. "When the scientific substantiation and policy advice are provided by the same organization (such as with face masks), a suspicion of conflict of interest may arise, causing the substantiation of the policy to lose credibility."
ABN Amro economist Sandra Phlippen said that the government doesn't have to be hesitant in implementing lockdown measures if they become necessary. "The economic damage is much less than expected from a lockdown and much more than expected from the fear of the virus itself," Phlippen wrote. According to her, consumers in municipalities with relatively many infections are more cautious, while the same lockdown measures applied everywhere in the spring. Phlippen suggested using payment data to stay ahead of outbreaks - where more card payments are made, the number of infections can be expected to increase, then expenditure there will fall again.
A number of experts were critical that the government did not stress more that coronavirus measures are temporary. Cor Wagenaar, Professor of History and Theory of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Groningen (RUG), spoke of "the nonsensical idea that social distancing is the 'new normal'." He thinks the government must "emphasize much more than hitherto that all measures are of a temporary nature."
Multiple experts also said the government should focus more on what can be done, instead of what is no longer possible. This is important for public support - which is vital for measures to be effectively implemented, said Ester Metting, epidemiologist and psychologist at the University of Groningen. "It is therefore important to adhere to measures that add behaviors rather than prohibit them," she said. The number of restrictions on people's freedoms should be kept to a minimum, because they can "lead to negative effects on mental well-being in the long term."
Eveline Crone, professor of Developmental Neuroscience in Society at Erasmus MC, said something similar. "At the moment, the emphasis is mainly on what cannot be done, but few alternatives are offered so that it remains feasible for people." Crone pointed to Prime Minister Mark Rutte's press conference last week. "Surely it can't be that the only message to these youngsters is to stay home and that they are stupid if they go to their grandmother."
Social geographer Maurice de Hond has been critical of the government's Covid-19 response for some time and therefore thinks that a different approach is needed for a possible second wave. "Rapid containment is not feasible, not necessary and - just like the first time - has enormous consequences for the economy, society and also public health (with regard to diseases other than Covid-19)," De Hond said. He accused members of the RIVM and Outbreak Management Team of not taking sufficient account of all kinds of new knowledge about the spread of the virus, instead stubbornly sticking to their initial stances. "Do not blindly follow the RIVM and OMT anymore," De Hond advised the government.