The cabinet has agreed to the proposal of Ernst Kuipers, Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport, to set up a National Functionality for Infectious Disease Control (LFI). This organisation will be part of RIVM, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment. By means of this new organisation, the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport will strengthen the national management of infectious disease control at the time of a pandemic.
Together with the Municipal Public Health Service divisions and other parties, LFI will help the Netherlands to be better prepared for a future pandemic. The structure of a clear, national approach ensures that a future crisis can be controlled more effectively. This can be done, for example, by facilitating upscaling for testing and vaccinating more quickly.
LFI will be a national crisis response organisation which will do two things: firstly, prepare for a future pandemic, and secondly, take responsibility for the operational management of large-scale infectious disease control. Controlling the current COVID-19 pandemic continues to be the responsibility of the existing organisations.
Clear division of responsibilities within RIVM
Hans Brug, Director-General of RIVM: “As RIVM, we worked very hard on bringing COVID-19 under control in the past few years. We have learnt that being well prepared for a pandemic is very important. That’s why we’ll set up LFI together with the Municipal Public Health Service divisions. So that we’re better able to control a future pandemic. Of course, we’ll make sure that there will be a clear division between the medical-executive responsibilities of LFI and the independent medical research and advisory role of other parts of RIVM. This particularly concerns the Centre for Infectious Disease Control of RIVM.”
The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, RIVM and the Municipal Health Service divisions have recently set out the framework for LFI. It will now be specified in further detail, set up and placed under RIVM. This will be done in close cooperation with other parties from infectious disease control, other ministries, security regions and municipalities. LFI will start its role of preparing for a future pandemic at the end of this year. This means that it will take measures to enable it to scale up operational matters very quickly in case of a future pandemic. An example of such measures are contracts for immediate action in case of an alert, allowing for call centres to be set up or logistics services to be engaged quickly. Another example is a programme of drills and training and properly functioning ICT. LFI will be able to fulfil its management role in case of a possible future pandemic from the middle of next year.
Setting up LFI forms part of the pandemic preparedness approach of the Dutch government. This approach includes a series of measures to be better prepared for a future pandemic and to raise the level of preparedness in the Netherlands permanently. One of the most important measures is to strengthen the Municipal Health Service divisions. LFI can only fulfil its role in combination with this strengthened infectious disease control at the Municipal Health Service divisions. This means sufficient capacity is required (doctors and other professionals) and information provision and the ICT infrastructure need to be improved.