‘No plan would have been adequate’ to deal with Covid-19
Friday, 20 November 2020
Even if Belgium had been up to date on planning for an epidemic, it wouldn’t have been enough, according to Dr Piet Vanthemsche, co-chairman of the Economic Risk Management Group (ERMG) and former Influenza Commissioner.
While the pandemic plan drawn up in 2006 during the H5N1 flu epidemic should have been updated, it likely wouldn’t have been enough, Vanthemsche told the special committee of the House charged with examining Belgium’s management of the Covid-19 epidemic on Friday.
According to him, this plan could have served as a basis when the Covid-19 epidemic broke out, even though “no plan would have been adequate to deal with this pandemic.”
Vanthemsche was appointed inter-federal Influenza commissioner in 2005, in order to fight H5N1 influenza. He remained in this position until the summer of 2006, after drawing up a pandemic plan.
“This plan could have provided a basis for fighting the pandemic. Yes, there was a structure, but a plan is just a plan,” he said. “When you look at the epidemiological aspects (of Covid-19), no plan would have been really adequate. Any plan has to be corrected and adapted during a crisis.”
According to Vanthemsche, the update of the 2006 plan was never carried out. “Why was it never updated? You have to ask the people who came after me. There were probably other political priorities. And were there enough staff to keep this kind of plan up to date,” he asked.
“In the future, we need to keep a pandemic plan up to date and operational.” According to him, “the appropriate institution to update these plans, like the nuclear emergency plan, is the federal crisis centre.”
“Has the epidemic been properly addressed? Difficult to answer. I leave it to your wisdom to decide,” he concluded. “The main difficulty with this epidemic was its scale. The many unknowns are a major source of problems.”