André Rouvoet, who took office last month as chairman of the GGD-GHOR umbrella organisation, doesn’t think it makes sense for people without complaints to be tested en masse without the added value of it being clear. That’s what he says in an interview in Trouw. As an example, he mentions the testing of passengers without symptoms at Schiphol Airport. According to him, this can be counterproductive: people feel safe if the test is negative and then do not abide by the rules.
“My thesis is: if it doesn’t benefit, it does harm. I’m afraid it does something to people’s behaviour, gives them the image that they are safe. The fact that we use tests as legitimation to not adhere to the measures. If we get tested en masse at Christmas and then we all go to visit grandma and grandpa at the nursing home, we’ll call out a second wave over us”
The Cabinet is increasingly calling on people without complaints to have themselves tested, for example if using the corona app shows that they have been with someone with corona. Because of the pressure on the test lanes, long waiting times arose this week, which meant that people with complaints had to stay at home longer than desired.
He does not consider the criticism of the GGDs to be justified. “That ball’s not in our court: it’s the Ministry of Health that’s buying the testing capacity.”
His objection does not apply to the testing of residents of nursing homes where there is an outbreak. That’s “risk-oriented”.
Let us do our job
Rouvoet is also bothered by criticism of his organisation from the political arena. According to him, it interferes too much with the execution of the work. Rouvoet calls the cooperation with Minister De Jonge excellent, but he calls on politicians, and also the Minister, not to get involved in every detail of the implementation. “You’ve given us an order, we’re carrying it out.” He points out that IC doctors don’t look over their shoulder either.
At the Municipal Health Service (GGD), this threatens to happen if more and more wishes are expressed about where and when tests should be carried out and for how long the source and contact research should be carried out. There was also criticism of the GGD’s in Rotterdam and Amsterdam, who temporarily asked people to call their contacts themselves at a peak time.
Quickly scaled up
Rouvoet is very pleased with the way in which the GGDs managed to scale up. “The first test streets were there within two weeks and a lot of people have been trained” He also mentions the national number, the ict and the laboratories. On the other hand, he also sees the signals of people who have to wait a long time to make an appointment by phone, especially in the morning. “We have to keep improving.”
Rouvoet started on 1 August in his new position. After a career in politics, including as Minister for Youth and Family for the Christian Union, he was chairman of Zorgverzekeraars Nederland.