Opposition MP's demand to know about Health Ministry interference with OMT reports
Opposition politicians reacted indignantly to a report from Nieuwsuur that the Ministry of Health meddled with the advice from the Outbreak Management Team, which was supposed to be independent of government influence. Different parties are demanding a debate on the issue.
Nieuwsuur reported about an official who wrote in April 2020 that the advice could be "still a little stricter" at a certain point. They were also asked to include specific lines of text in an advisory statement. In one case, a sentence suggested by an official contained a misspelling, which were then copied over into the minutes of a meeting.
After the OMT meets to discuss the coronavirus measures, the experts will send a draft of the advice to be issued to the ministry. The advice is discussed in an administrative coordination consultation, a spokesperson for the RIVM explains. The consultation is chaired by an official from the ministry.
The current health minister, Ernst Kuipers, said that it was logical that further explanation is sometimes requested, as the advice must also be communicated to many groups of people and sectors. This has not affected the independence of the OMT "at all," he said. The OMT itself stated that the Ministry of Health can indeed make suggestions, especially to ensure the advice is understandable and the text is clear. A spokesperson from the RIVM said that it is then up to the OMT to assess the suggestions, and possibly adopt them.
PVV politician Fleur Agema said it shows the ministry's approach to the coronavirus was "a mess." In a tweet to Kuipers, she wrote, "Someone has to be held accountable."
The SP calls it a "grotesque scandal." The left-wing party's spokesperson on the issue, Maarten Hijink, said, "If the ministry has contributed to advice given to itself, then the population and the Tweede Kamer have been fooled." The socialist party wants "clarification" from the minister next week. He speaks of "political pressure" on science.
"The fact that the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport interfered with the OMT advice damages confidence in our institutions and in our democracy," said Lisa Westerveld of GroenLinks. "Because scientists have to give independent advice - apart from politically wishful thinking. We want a debate as soon as possible."
Nick Pouw-Verweij of JA21 also speaks of "a gigantic loss of confidence."
According to PvdA MP Attje Kuiken, the news is "disconcerting." The revelation from Nieuwsuur "damages the fragile confidence and support of the Cabinet's approach to coronavirus," she says. "RIVM and OMT simply have to do their work independently," she said. It shows all the reasons why the Tweede Kamer needs to quickly start with a parliamentary inquiry, Kuiken added.
FvD is also indignant. "Although the lie is so fast, the truth will catch up to it," tweeted MP Gideon van Meijeren.
According to DENK MP Tunahan Kuzu, the story on Nieuwsuur shows what he says he has known for "years", specifically, "that the coronavirus policy is simply not good."
Reporting by ANP.