Security Council chair backs call for better long-term Covid planning
The Dutch government must craft and implement a long-term strategy to deal with the coronavirus that assumes the virus will be endemic to society, said Hubert Bruls. The Nijmegen mayor also serves as the chair of the Security Council, a group of 25 mayors representing every region of the country. His recommendations were similar to those of Council colleague Femke Halsema, the mayor of Amsterdam.
The current Cabinet does not have a clear strategy for handling coronavirus issues months, or even years in advance, Bruls told Nu.nl. Instead policy is largely driven in a reactionary way meant to handle short-term issues only. The new Cabinet should make their vision about handling coronavirus a priority issue when it takes over early next year. He said this should happen immediately after the new ministers are presented to the public by King Willem-Alexander.
"The new Cabinet must run from the podium immediately after the photo shoot, to first tackle the long-term strategy with the ministers most responsible," Bruls said in the interview. Bruls also wants more members of the public, from diverse backgrounds and working in different industries, to have more of a voice in the shaping of national policy.
The Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which may evade natural immunity and vaccines, will not be the last variant the public faces. "We will have to accept that the virus will be with us for a longer period of time," he concluded. Because of that, he thinks coronavirus restrictions should be implemented in a way which “allows society to adapt to the virus.”
The Nijmegen mayor proposed a shorter summer holiday period, followed by a longer winter holiday period, adapting the national school vacation calendar around periods of time based on infection trends in the Netherlands to better spread out waves and limit peaks.
"Viruses are more annoying in the winter than in the summer," said Bruls. "We have already had two years of experience with this. You really don't have to wait for that.”
Hospitality businesses, retailers, and non-essential service providers should also consider adapting their business models to predict the “bad times” in the winter, he said. “One thing is certain. It is realistic that the catering industry will occasionally be curtailed if there is another outbreak of the virus.”