Lack of preparation for COVID-19 led to silent disaster in Dutch nursing homes

Lack of preparation for COVID-19 led to silent disaster in Dutch nursing homes

A damning report published by the Dutch Safety Board (OVV) has found that the Dutch government was insufficiently prepared for the coronavirus pandemic, and consequently allowed for a “silent disaster” to take place in the Netherlands’ nursing and care homes, which resulted in an overwhelming number of deaths. 

The Netherlands was insufficiently prepared for coronavirus pandemic

On Wednesday morning, the OVV presented the first of three reports outlining the findings of their investigation into the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The Aanpak Coronacrisis investigation saw the OVV look into the preparations made and measures taken by the government, as well as the effects of the pandemic on more vulnerable members of society.

The first phase of the study covers the period from March to September 2020, in which, the report concludes that the Netherlands was “vulnerable” and insufficiently prepared for a large-scale outbreak of a new infectious disease. According to the 300-page report, the "strong focus on infectious disease control" hindered the "careful weighing of [other] interests.” 

Dutch government’s approach led to silent disaster in nursing homes

At the time, the government focused almost solely on fighting the virus and limiting the number of COVID-19 patients in Dutch hospitals and intensive care. This meant that too little attention was paid to the situation in nursing and care homes, where staff members weren’t provided with the necessary health and safety materials until it was already too late. 

In what the OVV has dubbed a “silent disaster,” the lack of knowledge and preparation led to “a lot of uncertainty and sometimes even panic" in nursing homes; figures show that half of the coronavirus deaths that occurred between March and September 2020 took place in nursing homes. When the severity of the situation became clear, the visiting bans imposed by the Dutch government had a “great social and psychological impact" on residents.

The Netherlands prepares for the end of the pandemic?

The OVV report comes just as the Dutch government takes decisive action that allows the Netherlands to “reopen.” At Tuesday’s press conference, Health Minister Ernst Kuipers was optimistic about the coronavirus situation, and said that many were relieved to hear that, after almost two years of restrictions: “The country will open again.”

The National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM) is also optimistic about the situation, saying in the weekly report published on Tuesday afternoon that, as the infection rate and the number of COVID-19 patients being treated in hospitals continue to fall, the “peak of [the Omicron] wave seems to be behind us.” 

Victoria Séveno


Victoria Séveno

Victoria grew up in Amsterdam, before moving to the UK to study English and Related Literature at the University of York and completing her NCTJ course at the Press Association...

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