OMT members threatened and placed under police protection
Several members of the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) have been placed under police protection after receiving threats from members of the public.
The OMT is made up of a number of specialists and experts from a variety of backgrounds, chaired by the director of the National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM) Centre for Infectious Disease Control. They advise the Dutch government on the measures that can and should be taken to limit the spread of coronavirus in the Netherlands.
Threats via letters and social media for OMT members
Speaking to NU.nl, some members of the team revealed that they had recently been threatened, having received intimidating texts and / or letters delivered to their homes.
Andreas Voss told the site he had received a letter telling him to “go back to Germany” (ga maar terug naar de Duitsers), and another one in which he was called a “terrible monkey” (vreselijke aap) and told that the zoo still had a place for him. The letters weren’t delivered via post, and instead were deposited directly into his letterbox, but Voss says he doesn’t feel threatened.
Marion Koopmans also received threatening letters to her home address, and a message online that featured an image of a noose with the text “it’s waiting” and “just wait” (nog even). Koopmans said the messages meant she didn’t feel safe taking the train into work anymore, and that she would be driving instead from now on.
Grapperhaus: "We are committed to their safety"
The OMT members who have been threatened noticed that these threats generally took place shortly after media appearances, and many, including Koopmans, are considering cancelling future appearances: “It's an option, yes. But if everyone stops, then that's not good either."
Diederik Gommers, chairman of the Dutch Association for Intensive Care (NVIC), says he himself has not been threatened but that a number of OMT members have been subjected to “serious threats.” He stated that one member of the OMT was under police protection, but didn’t clarify whether this would be permanent, saying: “if it is necessary, it will be."
The Dutch Minister of Justice, Ferdinand Grapperhaus, called the threats “scandalous", saying it was “extremely bad” that these scientists were being subjected to such treatment: “They explain what is going on in TV programmes at a good, understandable level. It is outrageous that this is happening. We are committed to their safety, let that be very clear." Grapperhaus didn’t provide any further information on the security that was in place for those who needed protection.