Dutch Cabinet lambasted over latest coronavirus developments
The government faced fierce criticism during a parliamentary debate on its coronavirus policy on Tuesday. Opposition parties PVV, GroenLinks, SP and PvdA demanded explanations about the test shortage, the staff shortages in source and contact tracing, and public health institute RIVM apparently secretly changing the guidelines for wearing face masks in elderly care, among other things, NU.nl reports.
"The cabinet is making a mess of it," PVV leader Geert Wilders said. On Tuesday the RIVM revealed that the number of coronavirus infections increased by 62 percent last week to 13,471.
"It is chaos in the testing policy," said PvdA leader Lodewijk Asscher.
"I now have the idea that they are lying," GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver said, referring to a Nieuwsuur broadcast that revealed that the guideline for wearing masks in elderly care was quietly changed from 'not necessary' to 'mandatory', once the mask scarcity was solved.
SP leader Lilian Marijnissen pointed out that her party repeatedly demanded protective equipment for all healthcare employees. If the government still insists that its guidelines for masks in elderly care were not based on scarcity, then she wants to know what new scientific insight prompted this change in policy.
Multiple parties were critical about capacity problems in Covid-19 testing, and faltering source and contact tracing. On Tuesday afternoon it became clear that ten thousand test appointments could not be made due to shortages.
"The cabinet is acting irresponsibly," Wilders said. Parliament has been calling on the government to get testing capacity in order for months, he said. "What have you been doing in the past months?" the PVV leader asked Public Health Minister Hugo de Jonge. "We cannot afford a Minister who can no longer handle things"
Coalition party D66 was also annoyed by the test shortage. Leader Rob Jetten mentioned that the government is now teaming up with large labs to help solve capacity problems, but he wanted to know why this was only happening now. According to Jetten, there are too many things that the government does not have a handle on and that is undermining support for the coronavirus rules.
That this is happening can be seen by the group of Dutch influencers and celebrities turning against the corona policy on social media on Tuesday, Jetten said. He is very much against this action, but can see where it's coming from. A lack of perspective and changing messages from the government is giving conspiracy theories a foothold. "People stick to the rules when the government is in order."
GroenLinks leader Klaver agreed with Jetten, calling the influencers the tip of the iceberg. "People need to know what the government is working towards. That cannot be waiting for a vaccine," he said. According to him, a well functioning test policy is the only way in which parts of society can be safely reopened. "And that is precisely what is going wrong." According to Klaver, the Netherlands really should have been in a better position seven months after the start of the crisis.
PvdA leader Asscher thinks the government must be clearer about when things go wrong or do not go as planned, and admit when they were wrong. "Be honest and admit mistakes," he said. "There would be an app, after which the dashboard would help us on time. De Jonge is like someone who says that he will do the dishes tomorrow. If that does not happen, [Prime Minister Mark] Rutte says that De Jonge was going to do the dishes at least."
Asscher also raised doubts about whether the new measures in the catering industry announced on Friday will be enough to turn the tide. ChristenUnie parliamentarian Carla Dik-Faber is also concerned about this. "We're looking straight into the eyes of the second wave. The cabinet is scrapping last rounds in the pub, is that the dike with which we will stop the second wave?"