Rutte and De Jonge do a question session: ‘Another one that says it’s not live’

Will there be a second lockdown? Does my daughter have to get tested with every cold? Can I just go to camp? What do you guys think of all the conspiracy theories? No question seemed too complex or too obvious at the online question-and-answer session they held this afternoon.

Via Facebook and YouTube they answered questions about the corona policy for an hour. Confidence in this has declined, reported the RIVM this week, and with this the cabinet seemed to want to regain some ground.

Drรฉ

De Jonge started by saying that “a lot of interesting and also critical questions” had come in. “Maybe you should start with such a critical question right away?”, he bounced the ball to Rutte.

“This one is from Drรฉ. Why do you lie to everyone and everything about covid-19? Because that’s all fake. Geheid will not answer this question”, read the prime minister, who laughingly added: “So we put it right but at the top.”

Rutte said it was all fake. “You know Drรฉ, I wish the virus didn’t exist, but it does. Sadly, thousands of people have died. It really is a serious problem.” Rutte also stressed that the impact of corona is “really not comparable” to a flu virus. “Much more severe.”

Waving spokesperson

Not only the content of the Cabinet’s messages was critically monitored, but also the form. For example, the Prime Minister read out a question about whether he could prove that the session was live. “There’s a colleague here who’s now going to the window to wave.” On which his spokesman clearly waved in front of the camera out of the window in the direction of the Hofvijver.

That turned out to be insufficient, because a little later Rutte felt compelled to provide evidence again. “Another person who says it’s not live… It is live. To prove it: it is now 35 minutes past 1”, the prime minister said after checking the time on his phone call.

Additional measures

But most of the session was mainly a good opportunity to bring the current spearheads back into the limelight. “Keep your distance and wash your hands”, “really only test in case of complaints”, “group immunity can’t be a goal” and “we’re aiming for evasion where it’s needed”.

In the light of the latter, De Jonger hinted that extra measures could be taken in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague, because that is where the infections are increasing the fastest. “There really is cause for concern.”

We see the figures rising, De Jonge said

One of the concerns of a number of questioners was the coronation bill in the making. “In fact, you now have all the power when it comes to corona,” Rutte passed that question on to his fellow minister. “Can you explain a little more about it?”

De Jonge was able to do that, with the crux of the matter: “People think it’s a law that gives the cabinet more powers, but that’s not the case. On the contrary, it gives us more opportunities to control ourselves.” Not everyone thinks that’s enough, by the way. Somewhere after Budget Day, the House of Representatives still debates the law.

“Bah bah bah

But it wasn’t just serious. “Do I have another question here on Facebook from ‘Bah bah bah’, curious name by the way?”, De Jonge joked at one point. “I hope you weren’t bullied with it at school.” When asked whether they shouldn’t show at a press conference how to put on such a mouthguard, Rutte didn’t immediately answer positively. “We’re gonna chew on that, maybe ask Jaap van Dissel sometime?”

Sometimes it got a bit more personal. For example, the two went into the question whether it’s still fun with all the criticism they get about their policy. It’s part of the job, was the thrust. “Because the crisis has been going on for some time now, we’ve all come to know about the virus, so everyone’s a bit of an amateur virologist,” said De Jonge. “We also learn from the criticism,” Rutte said.

The ministers said at the end of the session that this was not the last time they answered people’s questions online. Perhaps not an unnecessary luxury, because there is still some trust to be gained, according to the comments on YouTube. Some of the less flattering terms: drama, Teletubbies, cabinet of curiosities, liars, bastards and comic duo.