Ministry health

Opposition MP’s request to be informed of Ministry of Health interference in UNWTO reports

Opposition politicians reacted with outrage to a report by Nieuwsuur that the health ministry meddled with the advice of the outbreak management team, which was supposed to be independent of government influence. Different parties are calling for a debate on the issue.

Nieuwsuur reported an official writing in April 2020 that the guidance could be “even a bit stricter” at some point. They were also asked to include specific lines of text in an advisory statement. In one instance, a sentence suggested by an official contained a spelling error, which was later copied into the minutes of a meeting.

After the UNWTO meets to discuss the measures against the coronavirus, the experts will send a draft opinion to be issued to the ministry. The advice is discussed in an administrative coordination consultation, explains an RIVM spokesperson. The consultation is chaired by a ministry official.

Current Health Minister Ernst Kuipers said it made sense that additional explanations were sometimes requested, as the advice also needs to be communicated to many groups of people and sectors. This did not affect the independence of UNWTO at all, he said. the UNWTO he himself said that the Ministry of Health can indeed make suggestions, in particular to ensure that the advice is understandable and that the text is clear. An RIVM spokesperson said it was then up to the UNWTO to assess the suggestions, and possibly adopt them.

PVV politician Fleur Agema said it showed the ministry’s approach to coronavirus was “a mess”. In a tweet addressed to Kuipers, she wrote: “Someone has to be held accountable.”

The SP calls it a “grotesque scandal”. Left-wing party spokesman on the issue, Maarten Hijink, said: ‘If the ministry contributed to the advice it gave itself, then the people and the Tweede Kamer have been duped.’ The socialist party wants “clarifications” from the minister next week. He speaks of “political pressure” on science.

“Having the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport interfere with the advice of the UNWTO undermines trust in our institutions and in our democracy,” said Lisa Westerveld of GroenLinks. “Because scientists need to give independent advice – outside of political wishful thinking. We want a debate as soon as possible.”

Nick Pouw-Verweij of JA21 also speaks of “a gigantic loss of confidence”.

According to PvdA MP Attje Kuiken, the news is “disconcerting”. Nieuwsuur’s revelation “undermines the fragile trust and support for the Cabinet’s approach to coronavirus”, she says. “The RIVM and the UNWTO just have to do their job independently,” she said. This shows all the reasons why the Tweede Kamer must start quickly with a parliamentary inquiry, Kuiken added.

FvD is also indignant. “Although the lie is so fast, the truth will catch up with it,” tweeted MP Gideon van Meijeren.

According to MP DENK Tunahan Kuzu, the story on Nieuwsuur shows what he says he has known for “years”, in particular, “that the coronavirus policy is simply not good”.