‘With corona strategy, Cabinet violates human rights’

The Cabinet falls short in its strategy to combat the corona. From now on, vulnerable people must protect themselves. A group of experts and experienced experts, including Professor Vivienne Matthies-Boon, have therefore come up with an alternative plan. ‘Many people underestimate long covid.’

Vivienne Matthies-Boon has been home for two and a half years. She is a specially appointed professor of Humanism, Europe and Global Justice at Radboud University and has received lung covid. Although things are going a bit better now – a walk with the dog is possible again – there are poor prospects for recovery. The course of the disease in lung ecovid is very different from that of more known diseases. In addition, extra research support for long-term covid is not part of the government’s long-term strategy. This reduces the chance of new treatment methods.

Uncertainty

Lungecovid patients therefore live in uncertainty. Both socially and medically – they run a greater risk of getting through a severe corona course again – and financially. Even employees with a permanent contract do not stay forever. Now that we ‘live with the virus’ in the Netherlands, as is the government’s strategy, it automatically means that for every wave there will be more long-term sick people.

Vivienne Matthies-Boon

Yet one does not hear much from this group. ‘Quite logical,’ says Matthies-Boon. “This group is simply incapable of protesting. They are too tired to speak out and run too many health risks to physically unite in Malieveld.” To give these people a voice, Matthies-Boon contributed to the report From isolation

The report and the accompanying petition are an appeal to Health Minister Ernst Kuipers and to all MPs to invest more money in biomedical research in pulmonary covid, to spread better information about the condition, create understanding and include vulnerable people in politics to keep society open .

In the report, you state that there is little general knowledge about lung covid and what the consequences are. What do you notice?

‘I think a lot of people underestimate the disease. It’s not because you’re not feeling well after a virus. It is a systemic disease. It gets into your organs. In my case, I was hospitalized twice, was blind in one eye for a while, and I had a coronatong (painful, swollen tongue, ed.). An acquaintance of mine has – despite being vaccinated – lung covid and therefore contracted a brain infection, whereby her speech had dropped and she can no longer read. It is very diverse and can happen to anyone. ‘

‘We are very much all or nothing in Holland’

‘I think there are also many misconceptions: every coronary infection is different. You may be fully vaccinated or have passed the first time. And then get long covid next time. A less disease-causing variant such as omikron makes little difference. Fewer people can end up in hospital, but unfortunately this has little effect on the number of lung covid patients. ‘

How do you think society should be organized? Living with measures to circumvent long-term covid will not go well for many people.

” Measures’, in that wording lies the immediate problem. This is how we went through the whole pandemic in the Netherlands: from measure to measure. In Germany, it is approached in a completely different way. The focus is not on the rules, on what is allowed and not allowed, but on the concept of “protection”. For yourself or for the other. I think that vision can already provide much more understanding. ‘

“We are also very much all or nothing in the Netherlands. We open completely or completely lock. I think I speak for everyone when I say it does not make anyone happy. Holland also always reacts very late, and then suddenly has to step on the brake. It would be better to stick to a few smaller, less drastic, protective measures a little longer when the number increases at an earlier time. Such as, for example, FFP2 masks in public indoor spaces. Then it is much easier to keep everything open, and you do not have to lock society in all the time.

The government’s strategy appeals to society’s ‘common sense’ and states that ‘the sectors themselves know what works best to continue to accept people with vulnerable health.’ How do you look at it?

‘As I said before, many people do not know what lungecovid means and therefore do not know how to best protect this group – and other groups of vulnerable people. It is also often not at all clear what the sectors themselves can do. For what other measures can we use besides keeping our distance, or using a mouthpiece? It is a very vague plan that falls on the shoulders of the individual.

That was also Ernst Kuipers’ message, wasn’t it? So vulnerable must protect themselves

‘It’s true, but it’s not really possible with an infectious disease like coronavirus. You are dependent on the environment. Furthermore, there is no clear dividing line between who is vulnerable and who is not. Everyone can be sensitive to lung covid despite good health. ‘

‘You exclude the vulnerable group from society’

“This strategy is also in conflict with the human rights of the vulnerable. The government has a duty to protect people from serious diseases. As Minister Kuipers put it, this means that part of society will start living with the virus while others are forced to be in isolation. You are thus excluding the vulnerable group from society, which is ethically reprehensible. The Minister has a responsibility, and therefore cannot convey the message that all sectors must solve it themselves. ‘

You have sent the report to all Members of Parliament before debating the long-term strategy on Thursday. What do you expect from the debate?

‘I hope Members of Parliament will ask critical questions. And I hope that more emphasis will be placed on the severity of pulmonary covid. In the Netherlands, too much is done as if the disease is between the ears or can be remedied with a little physiotherapy. Even Minister Kuipers emphasizes in his strategy to ‘feel vulnerable’ towards the group instead of ‘being vulnerable’. Although it’s not about a feeling or a ‘feeling’. People with pulmonary covid are often in their prime. They do not want to sit at home, they want to contribute to society, and they cannot because they are seriously ill. ‘

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