Soon very few of the coronavirus measures in higher education will remain: as from tomorrow, lecture halls are allowed to be full once again and from 25 February it will no longer be compulsory to wear a face mask on campus.
“The country is opening up again”, Health Minister Ernst Kuipers said yesterday at what was the last coronavirus press conference for the time being. The number of COVID-19 infections are no longer causing rapid increases in hospital admissions. And that allows a large number of measures to be relaxed.
With immediate effect
The measures are being dropped in stages. With immediate effect, people may receive as many visitors at home as they want. And the recommendation to work from home as much as possible is now altered: people are allowed to work up to 50 percent of their working hours in the office.
From 18 February
More things will change as from Friday. All establishments will be allowed to stay open until 01.00 and it will no longer be compulsory to wear a face mask and practice social distancing in places where a Covid pass is required. So a face mask must still be worn on campus, where no Covid pass is required.
The period of self-isolation after a positive test is being reduced to five days, provided that the sufferer has been free of symptoms for 24 hours. In addition, there will no longer be a maximum number of visitors in areas such as the hospitality industry, cinemas, museums and theatres. And in higher education, lectures attended by more than 75 people will also be allowed again.
From 25 February
The final step for the time being will be taken on 25 February. All normal opening times will apply once more and no Covid passes will be needed in places accommodating fewer than 500 people. At places where more than 500 people, vaccinated or unvaccinated, gather without fixed seating everyone will have to produce a negative test result.
Social distancing will no longer be compulsory either. Face masks will then be compulsory only in public transport and at the airport “so as to allow vulnerable people to travel in safety”. Apparently other considerations played a part with respect to higher education.
Student organisations are pleased with the relaxations. “For many students, higher education has taken place online in recent months. We are pleased this is now coming to an end”, says Ama Boahene, chair of the Dutch Student Union. Lisanne de Roos, chair of the Dutch National Students’ Association, is also pleased “to see the back of every measure that restricts face-to-face education”.
De Roos sounded a caveat, however: the damage caused by the coronavirus crisis has not simply disappeared and some students will be nervous about sitting amongst fellow students in a full lecture hall. “Allowance must be made at the educational institution for all those anxieties; ‘All’s well that ends well’ does not hold water with many students.”