The Dutch approach to the corona crisis has fallen seriously short in several areas. Cabinet policy was at odds with (international) advice, communication was poor and cooperation left much to be desired. This is the conclusion of the KPMG consultancy in a report published today. ‘The optimistic scenario is often chosen’.
In the report ‘These are the lessons of 1.5 years of the corona crisis’ KPMG analyzed the Dutch corona policy between March 2020, at the start of the pandemic, and July 2021.
According to KPMG, a lot went wrong in executing the vaccination strategy. “The partial deviation from the vaccination strategy drawn up by the Health Council may have led to health damage and unnecessarily long extra pressure on hospitals,” the researchers write. After lobbying by the hospitals, the cabinet deviated slightly by giving priority to healthcare personnel.
The Dutch strategy was mainly based on the number of corona patients in hospitals and not on the number of infections, the researchers conclude. As a result, interventions were often taken too late and there were relatively more deaths in the Netherlands than in Scandinavian countries such as Norway, Denmark and Finland, where decisions were taken more quickly lockdown, border controls and quarantine rules. Compared to these countries, ‘it appears that the Netherlands has been significantly less able to manage the pandemic in terms of both economic growth and excess mortality’, the researchers say.
When criticizing the corona approach, ministers here sometimes screen with the high ranking of the Netherlands in the ‘Bloomberg index’, whereby the news agency assesses which country is currently dealing with the virus most effectively without restrictions paralyzing the economy and society too much. Norway is on one, the Netherlands on three.
But KPMG is looking back. According to the researchers, the cabinet took measures at crucial moments that were at odds with the scientific insights in force at the time. For example, ‘The Hague’ opted for herd immunity and a limited testing policy, while the advice of the World Health Organization (WHO) was to contain and do a lot of testing.
“The most recent example concerns the easing of June 30,” says KPMG in the report on the dances with Janssen easing, “whereby instead of gradually easing for a ‘big bang’ with a too rapid increase in the This resulted in a number of infections, through which part of the population became infected before it had the chance to be (fully) vaccinated.”
There are also many young people who are now struggling with long-term Covid. According to KPMG, the long-term impact of the consequences of corona has been underestimated. This may have to do with the great pressure from society and the House of Representatives to relax, says the consultancy. “In that sense, the cabinet may have listened to society, but with possibly ultimately negative long-term consequences for a large part of the population.”
On the other hand, by introducing a curfew, the cabinet anticipated the advance of the British variant just in time. “Compared to other countries, the Netherlands appears to have delivered an average performance in the fight against the corona crisis, with economic performance possibly outperforming the public health side,” the report said.
The Netherlands should rely much more on the worst-case scenario, advises KPMG: ‘Plan for the worst, hope for the best’. “In the next pandemic or a similar crisis, it would be good to structurally use this new attitude.”
KPMG notes that cooperation between the Ministry of Health, RIVM, GGD GHOR Nederland and GGDs was difficult. “The most striking example concerns the long waiting times for the test streets in the autumn of 2020. Public Health and RIVM drew up the new test policy, informed the GGDs relatively late and the purchase of test capacity by Public Health was also too low. ”
In addition, KPMG is critical of the government’s poor communication of the corona policy. According to the agency, it is advisable not to work with data for any new measures or relaxation in the mapped out roadmaps, but to use epidemiological targets such as the number of infections and the reproduction value.
The Dutch were told several times that ‘prudence over speed’. “For example, in the preparation of the vaccination campaign. The fact that speed as such is in reality a part of due care was thus ignored and thus a false contradiction was created,” according to the agency.
The corona crisis also makes it clear how the Netherlands and other EU countries are dependent on foreign countries for some products, such as mouth caps and medicines. There was also a lack of international coordination in measures and good cooperation with neighboring countries.
“The Netherlands would have benefited from international coordination of measures. When the Netherlands opted for a lockdown, people could still go to terraces in Belgium and Germany. When the Netherlands had the virus under control, residents of neighboring countries came to the Netherlands,” the report says.
The KPMG criticism is in line with the course of the critical advisors of the Red Team, which always insisted that the Netherlands should intervene earlier in case of increasing infection numbers.
With the report, KPMG is anticipating an investigation by the Dutch Safety Board (OVV), which is expected to be published early next year. There may also be a parliamentary inquiry.
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