9 April 2020, Thursday
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RIVM boss: Coronavirus is something we keep for months with us

When mid-January the first people in China deceased by the coronavirus, which seemed far away from the Netherlands. According to the National Institute for Health and the Environment (RIVM) seemed little chance that the virus could enter Netherlands. Meanwhile we are dealing with a global crisis. Jaap van Dissel, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Control RIVM, explains how it could go wrong if and how to continue.

When mid-January the first people in China deceased by the coronavirus, which seemed far away from the Netherlands. According to the National Institute for Health and the Environment (RIVM) seemed little chance that the virus could enter Netherlands. Meanwhile we are dealing with a global crisis. Jaap van Dissel, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Control RIVM, explains how it could go wrong if and how to continue.

In January, the RIVM reported that the chances were small that would coronavirus to the Netherlands and that the disease is not easily among humans seemed transferable. Nearly two months later, we are in a crisis situation.

“Yes, it can be. In the beginning we were completely dependent on the information of China. The situation there tilted increasingly, that’s just so. At that moment meant China is also the chance that it there would spread internally throughout was small. ”

“The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC, ed.) Has ratings given for scenarios that were most likely at the moment: the risk seemed small to spread to Europe, it is not that we have a very different position in the Netherlands. intakes than other European countries such as Germany and France. This was a position of the ECDC and, to my knowledge, also World Health Organization (WHO, ed.). ”

“After occurred spread that risk assessments are naturally adapted. That, after all, reflect the situation and does not predict the future.”

Previously stood in its response that the risk seemed small spreading. We added that it seemed small risk of spreading in Europe.

RIVM has now sufficient knowledge?

“We are certainly more knowledgeable about the virus. But it is very important that knowledge not only to hear elsewhere. Earlier it was mainly from China and giving the information always in the Chinese setting again.”

“In the end the details and that can vary from country to country. It is also very important to gain knowledge while playing such an outbreak to determine whether there are circumstances that make it different here than for example in China, Italy, France and Singapore. ”

There was, especially after the speech of Prime Minister Rutte, too much to do to herd immunity. How important is herd immunity in the fight against the virus?

“Protecting vulnerable and the people who care can provide the needed our two goals. One side effect is that building immunity have overcome the virus to people. It is said that there is uncertainty, but we know of each infection that builds immunity. Indeed, otherwise one can not eliminate the infection. ”

“The fact that people heal, meaning that immunity is a reality, this has been confirmed in animal experiments, the question is:.. How long people remain immune case of infection by a virus that usually years?”.

“The group that immune is never going to be as great in the current approach that we can abandon all measures. It takes just too long. I think we would rather have a vaccine that helps us to other people too who give immunity but without having to go through the disease. but it will take quite some time still. ”

Suppose that the measures to April 6 shall be extended by three weeks, yet we still have enough immunity to release all interventions?

“Certainly. Immunity helps already in the interventions that we do unto us, which strengthens it. But the virus is still months stay with us.”

Do you think that the elderly and vulnerable much longer measures than those imposed for healthy young people?

“It really depends on how long it takes before we have a vaccine, which probably takes even longer than a year. A vaccine should indeed be produced, tested for safety and so on.”

“Sometimes you see that summer has a beneficial effect on respiratory infections. But they are all uncertainties. It is a new virus, we are all susceptible to. We currently have to live with that.”

That’s not a very hopeful story.

“Well, this is what happens, the reality. The last thing we should do is stabbing our heads in the sand and say it does not happen and do nothing else. We must handle this as a society all together. We can curb the outbreak. ”

They are not special weeks, but months and maybe even a year.

“I would love it months now. For the longer term, more and more uncertainty. We are working on treatments, a vaccine, so getting there right now shaded a year to throw forward is me too far. While we need a lot happening, but science does not stand still, there will be new insights. ”

You have in recent weeks been arranged next to the Prime Minister to declare new measures. In his speech, you were even mentioned separately. Do you feel a bit currently in charge of the country?

“No, that’s nonsense. We are like RIVM a governance organization and bring together expertise of medical specialists and scientists from around the country (in the Outbreak Management Team, ed.). From the center that organizes I happen to Director and as a result, you are the voice of the whole group of medical specialists and scientists. ”

Someone has also the opinions of the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) transfer to The Hague. Then you can at this moment here in the front line, but I give the OMT advice and decisions are made by politicians. ”

There has to rest a lot of pressure on you. How do you keep it up?

“It is especially important that you are in such a situation good sleep. And yes, I do.”

If you have to say how the Netherlands will look like in six months, what is your answer?

“I hope of course that we have managed to keep the situation under control. I also hope that we at this time have a widely accessible treatment so we ones to treat and when needed to. I also hope that we will soon have a vaccine available so that all the measures we take now are no longer needed. But it remains conjecture. ”

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