The outbreak of COVID-19 has been a global challenge this year. Maybe more than ever before, countries from all over the world have joined forces to fight COVID-19. It is widely believed that COVID-19 originates from China. Several people amongst the earliest cases has visited the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in China. COVID-19 is closely related to bat and pangolin coronaviruses and therefore scientists believe that COVID-19 has a zoonotic origin.
COVID-19 belongs to the coronaviruses (CoV), which is a large family of RNA viruses and a known cause of respiratory infections. In origin, CoV are zoonotic, but they can evolve into diseases that spread to humans and which can ultimately lead to fatal illness.
The first time the world was shook by a large CoV outbreak was in 2002/2003 with the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV) in China. In 2012, another variant of the coronavirus hit the Middle East hard with the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).
Five months after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, we can already clearly establish that the world and our country were not prepared. Now, preparing for such a thing may be an illusion, but our response to the 1953 flood disaster with the Delta Works shows that collectively, the Dutch are able to overcome a crisis and provide protection quickly and robustly.
‘Now the momentum is here to act as we did with the Delta Works and defend ourselves against future pandemics’, says Pancras Hogendoorn, Top Team member of Top Sector LSH.
COVID-19 has had a major impact on both society and the economy, explains Hogendoorn: ‘Our healthcare system has come under enormous pressure. The limits of physical capacity were reached in no time. There was a shortage in the number of IC beds during the peak of the pandemic. During the rescaling within the 1.5-metre society, it becomes clear that the hospitals are set up too efficiently to cope with the patient flows.’
The impact can also be felt in the private domain. Hogendoorn: ‘We can make chips for the whole world, but the production capacity of low-tech products such as mouth masks and protective clothing is outsourced abroad. This also applies to the production of medicines. During this pandemic, this dependency on the supply chains became clear. We walked along the edge.’
‘It is therefore important that public health institutions and industry join forces to defend ourselves against the next wave. A good research and data infrastructure are crucial in this regard. The people who are now in the eye of the tornado can gather in a Taskforce Delta Plan Pandemics to discuss the various aspects of public health care, production capacity for low-tech resources and medicines, and a good research and data infrastructure.’
Hogendoorn continues: ‘The Top Sector can play an important role in this because of its extensive experience in cooperation within the quadruple helix and the establishment of robust, national, public-private partnerships.’
‘But we have to place it in a broader scope than just viruses. Indeed, two other pandemics are on the way: the obesity wave and the antimicrobial resistance wave. This includes placing prevention and the creation of a healthy society higher on the agenda. During the current pandemic, it has become clear that we are dealing with a risk population that primarily, not exclusively, experienced the negative effects of COVID-19’, Hogendoorn explains. ‘Moreover, we should not be afraid to invest. It will not be cheap. With our global economy we have to take into account that we might slide off the edge in a future pandemic, if we fail to invest now in short-term and long-term measures.’