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Call for an independent evaluation of the Belgian Covid-19 response


Already for two and a half years, the Covid-19 pandemic has been sending shockwaves through our healthcare system, our democratic institutions, our economic and social fabric, our scientific community, our media.

Given the scale of this crisis, it is understandable that the response was to a large extent improvised, with some good and some less good aspects. Many people have done their best in very challenging circumstances. After two and a half years of Covid-19, however, a global independent evaluation is necessary. Not as a reckoning or value judgment on the people involved, but to learn and adjust, in order to face the future better armed.

Indeed, measures that were taken to control the virus in the short term also incur indirect long-term effects. And sometimes these effects turn out to be more serious than many expected. Mental wellbeing has taken a hit. The learning deficit is undeniable, especially among the more vulnerable, with long-lasting effects on their prosperity and health. Elderly people have spent precious time in loneliness, sometimes to the point of death. Our healthcare system has become more fragile. And so we can go on and on.


Could more have been done to protect the elderly and the vulnerable, both from illness and isolation? Has there been sufficient thought about if, when, and how a government can enforce social behavior and suspend civil rights? Have data and models been used in a smart way, taking account of their limitations? Has the precautionary principle been applied adequately - regarding the virus, but also regarding collateral damage of unprecedented measures? Did we have appropriate procedures to weigh up the short-term epidemiological goals against the broader well-being in the longer term? And above all, has enough thought been given to the overall aims that we want to pursue for our society?

Certainly, partial evaluations of aspects of the Covid-19 response have already taken place,* even in the various parliaments in our country. These were useful, but insufficient. To begin with, they were premature: the main evaluations dealt almost exclusively with the first phase of the pandemic. Partly because of this, they were also too narrow: strongly focused on the virological and epidemiological aspects. The broader political, ethical and legal questions that transcend the technical level, the explicit or implicit trade-offs across policy domains, thus received insufficient attention. Moreover, they were often strongly politically filtered, fragmented according to the division of policy domains across the various governments, and insufficiently rooted in data. Therefore, their impact remained limited: the overarching policy recommendations of the evaluation in the Flemish Parliament, for instance, have not even been published, and the other evaluations have barely been followed up.


An independent evaluation of the processes and results of past pandemic policy is not only needed, it is also possible. Creditable efforts are being made in our neighboring countries. In the Netherlands, the Dutch Safety Board is leading an ongoing evaluation with far-reaching powers. A concrete result of this is the establishment of a Societal Impact Team, at the same level of the Outbreak Management Team (OMT). In Germany, the Evaluation of the legal basis and measures of the pandemic policy was very recently published by an interdisciplinary evaluation committee. In Sweden, a Corona Commission that was established specifically for that purpose concluded a three-part evaluation in February 2022. And across the Channel, the UK Independent Covid Inquiry was launched, an independent body that operates in total transparency and with substantial resources and authority. We can also learn from the imperfections of those foreign examples: the German report regrets the too narrow focus of the requested evaluation, a shortage of personnel, the lack of additional data collection, and the short evaluation period. The Swedish evaluation emphasizes that it was only able to draw up an interim evaluation, and that subsequent evaluations remain necessary.


Meanwhile, in Belgium, ‘the GEMS’ (Group of Experts for Management Strategy of COVID-19) was renamed to ‘the SSC’ (Strategic Scientific Committee), with almost identical composition. There is no question of broadening or turnover, and there is little enthusiasm for an evaluation among politicians and policy advisors. Yet, such an evaluation is a requirement for good governance, to draw lessons for future challenges. It is not something to fear, but to look forward to. Moreover, it can be healing, and a start for the necessary recovery from the dramatically increased polarization during the pandemic. Let’s work together to make it happen.



The following people have given their support to this call. It goes without saying that they may hold different opinions on other matters. People who were involved in the redaction of the text are indicated with an asterisk.

Anne Bergmans
University of Antwerp - Faculty of Social Sciences & IMDO
Associate professor and visiting professor
Bart Landuyt
KU Leuven
Innovation Manager
Bart Maddens
KU Leuven
Gewoon hoogleraar
Ben Derudder
Public Governance Institute, KU Leuven
Professor of Urban Studies
Benoit Nicolay
Anesthésiste Réanimateur
Bernard Rentier
Retired - ex-Université de Liège
Professeur ordinaire honoraire, Recteur honoraire
Bert De Munck*
Universiteit Antwerpen
Bert Smits
KU Leuven
Locum Professor of Quantitative Risk Management
Boris Jidovtseff
Université de Liège
Bram Verschuere
Carl Devos
Prof. dr.
Caroline Vrijens
Catherine Fallon*
Professeure de Sciences Politiques
Catherine Gysels*
Catherine Politis
Zelfstandig Huisarts
Christian Laes
Universiteit Antwerpen/ University of Manchester
Christine Dupont
Faculté des bioingénieurs, UCLouvain
Full professor and Dean
David Doat
Université catholique de Lille
Maître de conférences en Philosophie
Deborah Anné
Groot Licht vzw
Denis Flandre
Professeur ordinaire
Dirk Lafaut
Elisabeth Paul*
Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB)
Affiliate Professor / Chargée de cours
Elke Van Hoof
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Professor gezondheidspsychologie en eerstelijnspsychologie
Ellen Schoenaerts
Els De Vos
Emilie Corswarem
Maître de recherche - Professeure associée
Espeel Benoît
Médecin -Médecine Interne/soins intensifs adultes et pédiatriques
Esther Gheyssens
Universiteit Gent, Schoolmakers
Onderwijskundig pedagoog, PhD
Evi Gysbrechts
Zelfstandig logopedist
Franchimont Anne
Docteur en médecine,généraliste
Frans Schuit
KU Leuven
Emeritus professor
Gisèle Depas
MD (pédiatre et nucléariste Ulg), PhD (neuroscience, Paris 6)
Hendrik Vuye
Gewoon hoogleraar
Herwig Mannaert
University of Antwerp
Full Professor
Inge Van Trimpont
GO! Onderwijs van de Vlaamse gemeenschap
Directeur permanente ondersteuningscel CLB GO!
Irène Mathy
Université Saint-Louis Bruxelles
Maître de conférences invitée
Ivan Van de Cloot*
Denktank Itinera
Jacques Folon
Jan De Groote
Cottyn advocaten
Jean-Louis Lamboray
Jean-Marc Sparenberg
Université libre de Bruxelles
Jean-Michel Longneaux
Université de Namur
Professeur de philosophie, conseiller en éthique dans le monde de la santé
Joris Vlieghe
KU Leuven
Professor (Philosophy of Education)
Kathleen Van Heuverswyn
Policy, Ethics & Legal Advisor Disaster Risk Management
Kati Verstrepen
Liga voor Mensenrechten
Kenneth Lasoen
Koenraad Muylaert
KU Leuven
Kristien Van Reeth
Ghent University
Kristine Vanden Berghe
Prof. Littératures espagnoles et hispano-américaines
Lieven Annemans
Universiteit Gent, Vakgroep maatschappelijke gezondheidkunde en eerstelijnszorg
Gewoon hoogleraar
Lieven Thorrez
KU Leuven
Professor (biomedical sciences)
Liliane Schoofs
KU Leuven
Gewoon hoogleraar
Luc Bonneux
Arts ouderengeneeskunde, epidemioloog (MSc en PhD)
Maarten Vanhove
Hasselt University
Assistant professor
Marc Sabbe
Academisch coördinator van het Vlaams Interuniversitair postgraduaat Rampenmanagement
Prof. Dr.
Marc-Antoine Gavray
FRS-FNRS / Université de Liège
Maître de recherches / Professeur associé
Marlies Van de Walle
Kind- en oudercoach
Martin Buysse
Martin Ruebens
Projectleider InnovatieNetwerk Overheid
Matthias Bogaert
Assistant Professor
Matthias Storme
KU Leuven
Gewoon hoogleraar
Merijn Mestdagh
KU Leuven
Post doc
Michaël Bauwens
UAntwerpen, Department of Philosophy
Mieck Vos
Toenmalig kabinetschef vice-minister president Bart Somers
Monique Van Dormael
Institute Tropical Medicine - Public Health
Retired lecturer
Muriel Sacco
Maitre de conférences
Mélanie Dechamps
Cheffe de clinique adjointe aux soins intensifs cardiovasculaires
Nicolas Vermeulen
Professeur - Chercheur Qualifié FNRS
Olivier Boehme
Historicus en wetenschapsadministrator
Olivier Lhoest
CHC Liège
Olivier Servais
Full professor
Patricia Popelier
Universiteit Antwerpen
Gewoon hoogleraar
Paul De Hert
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Full Professor
Peter Hinssen
Founder nexxworks
Peter Petré
University of Antwerp
Associate professor in cognitive science
Peter Reynaert
Universiteit Antwerpen
Peter Van Humbeeck*
Wetenschappelijk medewerker
Peter Verlinden
Independent and KU Leuven
Journalist, author, lecturer
Pierre Schaus
Pierre-François Laterre
UCLouvain, CU St Luc
Professeur clinique, intensiviste
Quentin Louveaux
Université de Liège
Raluca Gherghinaru
Raphael Jungers*
Raphaël Lefevere
Université Paris Cité
Maître de conférences
Reitske Meganck
Ghent University
Associate professor (clinical psychology)
Rik Torfs*
KU Leuven
Hoogleraar kerkelijk recht
Sarah O'Neill
Charge de cours
Sofie Crommen
Kinder- en jeugdpsychiater
Sofie Vandelannoote
Sophie Stijns
KU Leuven
Gewoon hoogleraar
Stefan Rummens
KU Leuven
Politiek Filosoof
Steven Van de Walle
KU Leuven, Instituut voor de Overheid
gewoon hoogleraar bestuurskunde en overheidsmanagement
Stijn Geysenbergh
Stijn Verdonck
KU Leuven
Sven De Weerdt
Visiting professor
Thomas Gevaert*
Arts, Anatoom-Patholoog
Thomas Van Riet
KU Leuven
Associate professor
Tijl De Bie*
Universiteit Gent
Prof. datawetenschappen
Tim Buyse
Ghent University
Guest professor
Tom Coenye
Universiteit Gent
Hoogleraar microbiologie
Tyler Reigeluth
Université libre de Bruxelles -Université Catholique de Lille
Maître de conférences
Valérie Pattyn
Universiteit Leiden & KU Leuven
Universitair Docent
Vincent Laborderie
Vinciane Debaille
Maitre de recherche FNRS
Véronique Baudoux
Médecin Généraliste
Werner Trio
William D'hoore
Université catholique de Louvain - faculté de santé publique
Wim Schoutens
KU Leuven
Professor, Afdelingshoofd Statistiek en Risicobeheer
Wim Verbaal
Universiteit Gent
Professor (Hoofddocent)
Wouter Van Dooren*
Universiteit Antwerpen
Yves Coppieters
Université Libre de Bruxelles
Prof. de santé publique spécialisé en épidémiologie
Yves Moreau
KU Leuven
Gewoon hoogleraar
Yves Poullet
University of Namur
Honorary rector.
Zeger Debyser
KU Leuven
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