How much is the government willing to sacrifice for its corona policy?

According to Bas Jacobs, Professor of Public Economics at Erasmus School of Economics, the government is constantly placing political choices in the hands of the Outbreak Management Team (OMT). According to Jacobs, several factors have to be weighed against each other, but so far corona care has taken priority over everything else. 'I would like to see how much the government is willing to sacrifice in terms of economy, opportunities for students and infringement of fundamental rights,' Jacobs says in an interview with BNR Nieuwsradio.

A political and normative decision

The economy is being kept on lockdown. Jacobs wonders how much of the economy the government wants to sacrifice for healthcare related to corona, because nothing has been clarified about that now. He also admits that as an economist, he cannot make sound statements on that either. 'It's a very political and normative decision. But those considerations must be made clear, otherwise we will lose society in the measures that are taken.'

More differentiation 

According to Jacobs, the government is currently not pursuing policies that could reduce health care risks with less intervention in the economy. 'You should, in my opinion, put much more effort into testing so that we can get a better picture of the virus. Then the economy can start to open up. I also believe that there should be more differentiation to different risk groups. You could focus on better protecting the vulnerable which ensures that you create space in the hospitals, in the ICUs, but also that you can give the people who are less vulnerable a little more space.'

The ideal vaccination policy 

Jacobs explains that if you want to create group immunity in society as quickly as possible, the ideal vaccination policy would be for the groups that are now in the ICU to be vaccinated first. However, this is not done because other considerations have been made. One important one is that during the first wave, a lot of people died in nursing homes because there were insufficient resources and tests.

Political responsibility

Jacobs is also critical of the role given to the OMT in determining corona policy. According to him, the role of the OMT is that they explore options to control the virus without taking in a position themselves. 'That is what the OMT is doing now, actually. The decisions have to be made in the political arena. My problem is that the political choices are constantly thrown at the OMT so that the government doesn't actually have to take its political responsibility. That's a big problem. The OMT is not elected, it cannot decide on matters that deeply affect society, the government has to do that.'

Professor
More information

The full item of BNR Nieuwsradio, 3 February 2021, can be found here (in Dutch). 

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