Will self-tests save higher education?
Self-test, rapid test, proof of testing, vaccination passport... we hear so many terms these days. So what’s what and what role will they play in opening the doors to higher education again?
The end of the coronavirus crisis is on the horizon. Hopefully things will be somewhat back to normal by September. With a bit of luck, some changes will be made by the end of April and students will be able to return to campus for one day a week. Self-tests should make this possible.
What are self-tests?
If things go according to plan, you will soon be able to buy a self-test at your local supermarket or chemist’s. These self-tests can be used at home to find out if you have contracted the coronavirus. You put a swab up your own nose and get the results within fifteen minutes.
How much do they cost?
They will be free for students, as the government will be buying them in bulk for higher education. Minister De Jonge estimated the tests would cost around ten euros each, but over-the-counter tests are now expected to sell for around 6 euros. The government is going to need deep pockets.
How reliable are the tests?
Very, if you administer them properly, although there is always a margin of error. And some tests require you to push the swab quite far up your own nose, which some people might struggle to do. You can also get some remote guidance for administering these tests.
Will my test results serve as admission to campus in the future?
No, because the results will not be registered anywhere. The self-tests are intended for people who do not want to infect others. You can keep one next to your toothbrush, as Minister De Jonge likes to say.
Fifteen minutes is pretty quick. How is this different from a rapid test?
A rapid test is an official coronavirus test administered by someone else at a testing location. VU Amsterdam just started a pilot rapid tests on campus. The results of a rapid test are also available quickly. You can get a document to prove you are healthy. A recent, negative self-test could in future become a requirement for admission to concerts and events. It is uncertain whether this might apply to higher education.
What about proof of vaccination?
That is something totally different. Once you have received your coronavirus vaccine, you should not pose a threat to others. This means you will not need to take any self-tests or rapid tests. A vaccine passport should give people more freedom of movement, in the same way that you are only allowed into certain countries once you have had the required vaccinations.
But won’t this lead to division and discrimination?
There are people who have reservations against a vaccine passport on principle and there are people with practical objections. Some people do not want to get vaccinated and others may have medical conditions that prohibit them from getting the vaccine. The government came up with an idea for an app with a green check mark for those who have been vaccinated and one for people who have recently had negative test results. This will help protect public health without forced vaccinations.
Would this allow me to go to campus?
It might, should institutions be given the option to impose these requirements and in the event that they want to.
If not, will remote education continue?
Yes, in that case institutions will need to remain cautious, until enough people have been vaccinated.
I want life to go back to normal! Is that too much to ask?
Well, everyone wants things to go back to normal, but at whose expense? The RIVM counted another 223 COVID-19 deaths last week. The number of hospitalisations is climbing again and more than 46,000 people tested positive for coronavirus in the last week.
IMAGE: Marieke Kolkman
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