ICU leader sparks controversy while discussing pandemic effect on youth
Intensive care leader Diederik Gommers found himself in hot water after participating in an online discussion about the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the country’s youth. While explaining that young people should take a more active, and organized role to regain the freedom they have lost, stated, “Covid is peanuts. What are we talking about? This is a no-brained virus. We are locking each other up, but it hardly makes us sick.”
The video clip, a short extract from a 20-minute interview, went viral after it was promoted on social media by the program’s producers, De Balie in Amsterdam. Gommers said that the clip was taken out of context. At the time, he had compared the coronavirus against the Ebola virus, and global concerns about climate change. The intention was not to diminish the impact of the coronavirus and the importance of coronavirus restrictions, he said on Instagram, but to speak rhetorically about the difference between the virus’s health impact on young people versus the impact of years of strict restrictions on them.
"I just think you should start the conversation, like, ‘We are now losing two years of our most important development in our lives. It is an important phase in your life where you get to know yourself. We want to think along in a safe solution,’" he said during the interview.
“What is very important is that young people hardly ever get sick. It is not 0 percent, but the chance is very small. Then you can still get Long Covid complaints, but that chance is also relatively small among young people,"
Gommers serves as the chair of the Dutch Association for Intensive Care (NVIC), and also runs the intensive care department at Erasmus Medical Center. A staunch advocate for coronavirus restrictions to prevent overwhelming the healthcare sector with Covid-19 cases, he used the interview with De Balie’s Nieuwskamer to also recommend that young people make their voices heard about how they want to regain their freedom and how they should fight to lead a nice life again amid the coronavirus crisis.
Young people should come up with a step-by-step plan on how to relax restrictions again, he said. "They will have to show that they want to contribute to the future,” he told the interviewers. "I'm 57 and I have a very good life now. I have almost no Covid problems at all; I don't go out anymore," he said, contrasting his life against that of someone decades younger.
Gommers believes that when combating the coronavirus, a distinction should be made between young people and the elderly. He emphasizes that so far young people have hardly become ill from the virus. "Last year we had hoped that if we got vaccinated we could offer perspective to young people, but now we are two years down the line and that is still not there," said Gommers.
After the interview, he posted on social media to say he wanted to stimulate the younger audience of the De Balie program to have a rethink about relaxing coronavirus restrictions. “So, don’t wait for others, but look for possible solutions yourself.”
Reporting by ANP and NL Times