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The official government response to the first report by the Dutch Safety Board came six weeks after the report was published. In it, the government embraces the conclusions drawn in the investigation report by announcing plans and formulating ambitions. Understanding that not all recommendations made in the report could be translated into policy action in such a short period of time, the Board waited for the government to set out its long-term strategy before issuing a response. Now the Board expresses its concern over the lack of necessary action taken with regard to improving the national crisis response. Chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem: “The sense of urgency when it comes to implementing concrete changes has faded away. That’s why we’re once again drawing attention to the lessons learned from the first period of the coronavirus pandemic, so we can be optimally prepared as a country to deal with subsequent waves of infection or other crises.”

New waves of coronavirus infections

The coronavirus remains present worldwide, and in the Netherlands. Is the Netherlands adequately prepared to handle new waves of infections? The Board’s first investigation report highlighted the unclear division of roles between different organizations during the crisis, for instance between the government and the Outbreak Management Team (OMT), but also between the various ministries involved in the crisis response. In addition, the Board noted that the crisis response structures of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) and the implementing services, such as the Municipal Health Services (GGDs), were inadequate for a pandemic. Structural improvements are still needed there.

The Board also stresses that during the first period of the coronavirus crisis, the crisis response apparatus was repeatedly caught off guard by the speed and severity of the waves of infections in the autumns of 2020 and 2021. Based on the signals it has received so far, the Board wonders whether the government has sufficiently incorporated the lessons learned in its preparations for future infection spikes, and whether it has prepared scenarios for this.

For the Dutch Safety Board’s full response to the government’s implementation of its recommendations, go to Addressing the Covid Crisis, Part 1: until September 2020.


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