With videoPrime Minister Mark Rutte denies that the scarcity of protective equipment in the corona era was leading in the distribution of face masks in nursing and disabled care, as stated in a report on the initial phase of the corona pandemic. The shortage of face masks did play a role, according to the prime minister, he said in a parliamentary debate. “But it was not leading.”
Today, the House is debating with four responsible ministers about the first report from the Dutch Safety Board (OVV) on government actions during the corona crisis. This concluded, among other things, that in the first months of the corona crisis, there was far too little attention for care in nursing homes. The OVV also criticized the management style of then Minister of Health Hugo de Jonge. Crisis communication was one-sided and the government too often made big promises that it ultimately failed to keep.
In her input, PVV MP Fleur Agema demanded that the cabinet apologize for the mistakes made by people who are now back in the cabinet. PvdA party leader Attje Kuiken also emphasizes this. She thinks that the cabinet should recognize that ‘a really crucial mistake has been made’ when it comes to the use of protective equipment in healthcare.
What particularly baffles Agema is the OVV’s conclusion that the scarcity of protective equipment ‘definitely’ played a role in the development of a guideline for nursing and disabled care. It stated that staff in these sectors did not have to wear mouth masks if they worked with a corona patient, as long as the contact was short. In retrospect, it turned out that a large number of healthcare workers had become infected. “Our healthcare providers have been knowingly left out in the cold by the cabinet,” said Agema.
Prime Minister Rutte himself denies, despite the OVV’s conclusion, that ‘the scarcity was leading’ in the decisions regarding the advice. “We made the decisions taking into account the risks of contamination. Of course, scarcity played a role in the decisions, but it was not leading.”
Agema absolutely cannot agree with this. “It is in the report,” she accuses Rutte. “We are being spoiled here.” Farid Azarkan (Denk) also does not understand why the prime minister contradicts the OVV report. “It becomes a bit Ruttian.”
Agema also strongly criticizes Hugo de Jonge, who was Minister of Health in the previous cabinet. He is now Minister of Housing and is not present at the debate. “It is very sad that these people have and apparently keep these jobs without acknowledging, let alone apologizing, the irreparable damage they have caused to the health of many people.”
Lisa Westerveld (GroenLinks) criticizes communication from the government. “The distrust in politics is partly caused by incitement by right-wing parliamentarians, but also by mistakes made by the cabinet.” The fact that promises were made that were not fulfilled did not help confidence, says Westerveld.
From the sidelines
Critical voices are not heard from across the House. D66 member Wieke Paulusma says that ‘judging from the sideline’ is easier than actually doing it. “I believe in good intentions from everyone, including politicians.” Mirjam Bikker, party leader of the ChristenUnie, agrees: “Everyone worked really hard in that first period.”
Bikker does, however, agree with criticism from the OVV that the government has too little taken social interest into account in decision-making for too long. “The medical frame has stayed too long.” Caroline van der Plas (BBB) also draws attention to ‘the old people’ for whom ‘measures caused a lot of suffering’.
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