The lockdown will be extended until 2 March, Prime Minister Rutte said on Tuesday. So for the time being, the majority of university teaching will remain online. When will universities and universities of applied sciences be allowed to open their doors again?
The number of people infected is slowly declining, but the relaxation of coronavirus measures still seems a long way away. Rutte warned us that the new strains of Covid-19 could cause a third wave of the pandemic.
How does the government choose measures?
In principle, all measures are listed on the road map, which was somewhat revised yesterday, but nothing has changed for higher education.
How should we interpret this road map?
The road map does not contain hard and fast rules, but rather it’s a guide for decision making. There are four tiers: alert, worrying, serious and very serious. The measures have been summarised for all kinds of situations and sectors for each tier. For example: a wedding may be attended by one hundred guests (tier 1), fifty guests (tier 2) or thirty guests (tiers 3 and 4). At the highest tier the measures can be further tightened, if necessary.
And what about higher education?
The general restrictions are already rather drastic: 1.5 metre social distancing, face masks, isolating at home if you have symptoms, and so on. These mean empty lecture halls, missed exams and more. But in principle there are no additional restrictions for the educational sector. Only if the measures at the highest tier are further tightened would we end up where we are now: no face-to-face classes at all.
But I have exams coming up!
Right, exams are an exception. So are practicals and labs, and counselling for vulnerable students. These can go ahead on campus, to the best knowledge of the university.
What will open first: lecture halls or pubs?
Lecture halls. As soon as it is at all possible, classes will resume with 1.5 metre social distancing. Pubs and cafés will only open again when we get down to tier 1 and 2, also with social distancing.
When do we go to a different tier?
The decision is based on the number of positive tests per 100,000 members of the population each week. The lowest tier is less than 35 per 100,000. At tier 2 there are no more than 100. Tier 3 is 250 positive tests per 100,000 per week, and tier 4 above 250. The number of people admitted to ICUs is also a contributing factor.
And what tier are we in now?
The lockdown is having an effect: the number of people testing positive has decreased. There are now 164 cases per 100,000, the RIVM reported. This is tier 3: serious, but no longer very serious.
So back to campus soon?
No, we can’t fly the flag yet. New, more contagious strains are threatening to cause a third wave of the pandemic. The number of people testing positive must continue to go down before the government can consider loosening restrictions again. The government has not yet decided about the curfew: we have to wait for the OMT’s new advice at the end of the week.