Government won't release outbreak management team's meeting reports
The government will not release the internal discussions and meeting reports of the Outbreak Management Team, the government's main advisor on how to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. According to Health Minister Hugo de Jonge, releasing these reports could result in OMT members being afraid to give their opinion, AD reports.
The OMT is led by Jaap van Dissel of public health institute RIVM and consists of doctors, virologists and epidemiologists. It advises the government on the effectiveness of measures like mandatory face masks, closing catering establishments, traveling during the pandemic, and the like. Various media in the Netherlands filed requests for the OMT's meeting reports to be published, appealing to the Government Information Act. But the Ministry of Public Health refused to release those documents.
"Disclosure would mean that OMT members will no longer be willing to participate in the OMT or will feel inhibited to speak up," Minister Hugo de Jonge said. "This is an obstacle to effective control of infectious diseases and therefore leads to a disproportionate disadvantage for public health in general and the RIVM and my Ministry in particular."
De Jonge is worried that experts on the OMT will be afraid to speak their opinion if they are later quoted in the media.
The Ministry did release the OMT agendas for the period January to August. According to AD, one meeting stands out. On August 27, the OMT discussed "points of improvement", mentioning the composition of the OMT, organization, transparency, and the "relationship between science and policy/OMT independence".
That last point is interesting as Van Dissel has often been criticized for giving too much heed to politicians and the government's wishes. For example, critics said he should not be guided by economic interests after he said in an interview that social distancing is more complicated in planes if you still want to "be able to fly at reasonable prices". Nieuwsuur also revealed that the RIVM advice on wearing face masks in healthcare was influenced by a shortage in protective gear, and not only based on scientific information as claimed.