In March 2020, a virus engulfed our country and the rest of the world with unprecedented consequences. From the beginning of this pandemic, a number of scientists from Erasmus MC have been in the spotlight. They spoke out in newspapers and on television, and they worked day and night on policy, healthcare and research. We highlight two national protagonists.
Lead actor Marion Koopmans
"It wasn't nice to be proved right in this way."
Marion Koopmans is professor of virology at Erasmus MC in Rotterdam. Her research focuses on the transmission of viruses from animals to humans, and on large-scale spread between people.
For years, Koopmans has been warning about the worldwide outbreak of an unknown virus that can cause a lot of devastation. In an interview with Volkskrant Magazine, she explained: "I was already working with others on broad research into the effects of things like climate warming and intensive livestock farming on the emergence of these kinds of viral diseases, and with the question: aren't there simply limits to growth? It wasn't nice to be proved right in this way."
Together with Diederik Gommers, she became a member of the Outbreak Management Team. And they received the Machiavelli Prize 2020, for their relentless efforts to make the science of the coronavirus accessible to a wide audience. It was also her wish to set up the Pandemic & Disaster Preparedness Centre to better anticipate a pandemic in the future.
With a team of experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO), she travelled to Wuhan at the beginning of this year to investigate the origins of the coronapandemic.
Lead actor Diederik Gommers
"We constantly consider the worst-case scenarios."
Because of the corona crisis, Gommers, professor of intensive care medicine at Erasmus MC, quickly became a well-known Dutchman. He is chairman of the Dutch Association for Intensive Care and, together with Marion Koopmans, became a member of the Outbreak Management Team that advises the cabinet. About the latter, he said in an interview with Trouw (27 February 2021): "My role is to ask the question with every change: what does this mean for the ICUs in the Netherlands?" He does not make policy, but he likes to educate. He predicted the second and third waves, and he helped to ensure that the ICU capacity in the Netherlands has always been sufficient, and that we have not seen horror scenarios like in some other countries. Gommers appears weekly in television and radio programmes and newspaper reports.