Dutch coronavirus policy at a dead-end, New coronavirus minister needed, says Labour MP
The Tweede Kamer will cut short its winter recess, which officially began on Friday, to hold a debate Tuesday on the new lockdown the Cabinet implemented over the weekend. The purpose of the lockdown is to stall the impact of a wave of coronavirus infections expected from the Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Labour MP Attje Kuiken, who sits on the Tweede Kamer’s public health committee, indicated she was aggravated by the Cabinet’s sudden decision to put the country in a lockdown that will last at least four weeks. In an interview with AD, she called for serious changes to the composition of the Cabinet, and to re-evaluate the role of the Outbreak Management Team.
“We are at a dead-end, now almost two years after the start of the crisis. A press conference like the one on Saturday? It was disconcerting. Everyone lacked perspective, no matter how well-intentioned. The messages were sometimes too difficult to follow. There was a lack of clear vision,” Kuiken said.
The current caretaker Cabinet will soon make way for a new regular Cabinet. When that happens, there should be one minister handling only coronavirus issues, she said, instead of a minister handling the pandemic in addition to the Cabinet’s entire public health agenda. There are rumors that the current health minister, Hugo de Jonge, will no longer be in the Cabinet as his party, CDA, may not have stewardship over the country’s public health portfolio. There will be at least one “fresh face,” Kuiken said of the rumor.
The MP still sees the need for the Outbreak Management Team, a group of healthcare experts advising the Cabinet on its handling of coronavirus issues. However, Kuiken wants to see the composition of the OMT change in such a way that the Cabinet is not only looking to them for advice in the short-term about emergencies related to the pandemic.
“The decision-making has to get out of crisis mode. The OMT must be given a different role. There needs to be more participation from behavioral experts, communication professionals and people from the welfare and benefits sector. And we, as the Tweede Kamer, must take more time to go into depth in all these areas. This lockdown should be a wake-up call that we are at a dead-end,” Kuiken told AD.
She also wants her fellow Members of Parliament to spend more time debating the future, and the Cabinet’s vision, and not just the minutiae of its proposed policy, like when MPs spent hours debating the exact start time of the lockdown curfew implemented in January.
With changes to the OMT, it can be relied upon to provide new insights from new people. “Now that coronavirus will definitely remain for years to come, we have to talk about the long term. Will events become a kind of seasonal work? How do you retrain people? Do school classes have to be reduced for a long time? What about ventilation?”