Health Ministry tried to alter outbreak team advice multiple times
The Ministry of Public Health, Welfare, and Sports asked to amend the advice of the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) multiple times. Documents released by the Ministry show that, for example, at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the Ministry asked to remove a call to healthcare workers to be frugal with face masks as it would be too "harsh an entry." This is because they are "of course already very frugal and 'yell' for extra masks." The OMT did not respond to this, according to the advice that was eventually sent.
Health Minister Ernst Kuipers sent over 400 pages of internal communication about the OMT recommendations to parliament. These show that most of the Ministry's comments were aimed at removing ambiguities. However, the Ministry also made several attempts to change the content. Sometimes the OMT adopted the Ministry's proposals, and sometimes it did not.
In May 2020, emails were sent back and forth about the OMT's advice on visiting the elderly. A Ministry official complained that the advice from the OMT was more complicated and strict than what the Cabinet had said earlier. He also suggested thinking about it for another week.
The public health institute RIVM responded that the experts "did not consider the proposal submitted to them strict enough." "I fear this will not work in terms of communication, and Ministers will not do it this way either," the Ministry of Health responded. The extended advice on visiting the elderly was published in the end.
A comment that excessive busyness during source and contact investigations may lead to longer waiting times at the GGD was removed by the OMT in December of that year. The documents show that the Ministry did not explicitly ask for this. However, the Ministry criticized the text because it would not do justice to "the efforts made to ensure that there is sufficient testing capacity."
Something similar happened with a request from May last year following a discussion about reopening schools. Then, the OMT initially suggested that unvaccinated teachers be offered a vaccination more quickly because they had not all been invited to get vaccinated yet. "Perhaps it would be better if the OMT finds that not all teachers have been vaccinated yet?" an official countered. What he meant by that is not entirely clear. The final advice stated that it was pointless for teachers to get vaccinated faster because that would not open the schools any earlier.
Reporting by ANP