RIVM’s Van Dissel disagrees with report that he overstepped his role as pandemic advisor
RIVM Director and Outbreak Management Team (OMT) chair Jaap van Dissel told Nu.nl that he does not think his role as an advisor to the Cabinet during the coronavirus pandemic blurred the lines into a policymaking role. His comments were a response to a Dutch Safety Board (OVV) report.
"My role was explaining the epidemiological situation and what we could prepare for," Van Dissel said to Nu.nl. "I kept that system identical during all those consultations. You can check that in all letters to Parliament." He added that he saw no harm in being invited to crisis meetings, as he was merely "explaining the situation."
In the report, the OVV said Van Dissel risked being seen as a policymaker by the public due to his "important role" in crisis meetings during the pandemic, according to Nu.nl. This image was encouraged by Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who referred to OMT advice as "sacred." However, Rutte on Friday said he agreed with the report that advisors and policymakers should be better differentiated in the future.
"You should address these kinds of questions to the Prime Minister, not to me," Van Dissel told Nu.nl. "[The OMT] has stuck to this role and limited ourselves to the medical-epidemiological forecasts and scenarios."
The report also criticized Van Dissel's comments on face masks, which he called a "political choice,” saying that these comments undermined "public confidence in government policy." However, Van Dissel responded that his role as OMT chair was to indicate uncertainty, not to support political decisions.