Professor Bussemaker and Professor Koenders are learning from the management of the current corona crisis. In a joint conference with around 60 students in Wijnhaven and some 250 online participants, they started a discussion chaired by Willemijn Aerdts.
Based on research and their personal experiences, they came to some interesting conclusions. Bussemaker concluded, based on health research, that crisis management is top-down. This traditional approach to dealing with crisis is successful, but at the same time it was also remarkable to discover that many good ideas had been conceived in the workplace.
Much attention in health care is, of course, on preventing the spread of the virus. But due to the strict measures, people were also dying on their own and this should have been avoided by also looking at not only the medical aspects of this corona crisis. Thus, in the beginning, too little attention was paid to the unhealthy aspects of coronacrasis, such as the living conditions, for example, of underprivileged students who were forced to study at home.
Koenders also looks more broadly at the impact of coronacrisis which is not just a health crisis. In addition to numerous deaths around the world, Corona has lost around 500 million people their jobs and left 130 million more people poor than before the crisis.
Additionally, Koenders explains that 80% of all vaccinations go to the arm of someone in a rich country and only 0.3% of vaccinations reach a person living in a poor country. Koenders also points out that due to the unpredictability of this global crisis, we are also reluctant to act in other areas. For example, is globalization really a good idea? The contrasts in the world have also become greater because of the crown. After all, if you live in a slum without proper health care, the impact of the crisis is much greater. Or if you can continue to work or study because you have access to an online world, you can still grow. The difference between the rich and the poor has widened. Koenders makes a comparison with a possible environmental crisis to come. Our current global corona crisis is primarily being addressed at the national level. Although everyone in the world is affected, it would be good to see how we might deal with a future crisis on a global scale. Bussemaker stresses the need for a comprehensive approach to this crisis and adds that in the Netherlands, in some disadvantaged areas, there is a lack of trust in the government and the health system, which means that the number of people vaccinated is far behind the average, while it is precisely in these disadvantaged areas that the risks are higher.
An important lesson for dealing with future crises is also that we need to better take into account all the possible side effects of a crisis approach and that, as in the case of the corona crisis, when making the decision, we cannot properly assess all the risks in advance either. After all, policy must be developed in an agile manner and be able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. Koenders points out that in recent years there has been a global trend towards nationalist sentiment, while now we should try to find comprehensive solutions to crises. It is precisely international cooperation that has a positive effect on each country. It sounds paradoxical, but it is not because, for example, not everyone is safe until everyone in the world has received a vaccine.
As noted, since the start of this wreath, the focus should have been more on the non-health aspects. The UNWTO, for example, should have been made up not only of doctors but also, for example, of sociologists and philosophers so that there was more attention to all the elements. Cooperation between politicians and researchers should also have been better. Many politicians have built their policies around false information with very dramatic consequences. It has also had a huge impact on citizens’ confidence in government actions. It is obviously very important that we have confidence that the government is taking the appropriate measures. In his role as Secretary of State for Health, Bussemaker had started vaccinating girls against cervical cancer. The government sent a letter to parents urging them to get vaccinated. Unfortunately, a lot of false news has been spread about this vaccination, causing many parents to decide not to have their daughter vaccinated. The government then failed to accurately address this fake news. Even with the current corona crisis, there is a lot of conflicting news with a negative impact on confidence in government actions.
Better cooperation with the research field can help to maintain confidence. Of course, one should also take the so-called anti-vaxxers seriously and engage in a debate with them and preferably without much media coverage. Koenders acknowledges that in Mali trust in the government was very low and that the government also entered into a debate with its opponents to get a feel for what they were doing.
Bussemaker then again insists that government must adopt enforced policies, and generally enforceable policies are not always happy. For example, she stresses that the 1.5 meter is an effective rule but that in nursing homes, it would have been preferable if a different standard had been set. So make a policy based on specific circumstances and of course explain it very well to the people involved. Koenders and Bussemaker agree that it would be better to have a public-private partnership for vaccine development than to have the current structure. A lot of public money is invested in vaccine development anyway, but due to the current patent structure of the pharmaceutical industry, vaccine distribution is not broad enough in all countries.
There are many lessons to be learned from the current approach. The two professors see that a lot has been done well but also that we must analyze what we have done and look with an open mind to manage future crises of all kinds.