Since the start of the introductory activities, several Dutch cities have seen a marked rise in the Covid infection rate among students. However, the universities themselves are not to blame: the students contracted the virus at parties they organised themselves.
The government stopped short of cancelling all introductory activities for students, but in early August it did put on the brakes. Universities and universities of applied sciences had to organise almost all of their events online. Face-to-face encounters and group events were only permitted under strict conditions.
Even so, the number of Covid cases among students, most notably first-year students, has been on the rise here and there. Further investigation has revealed that the virus was spread at informal parties and get-togethers.
Around forty students tested positive in Tilburg. GGD Hart voor Brabant describes the outbreak as “multiple clusters of larger and smaller groups of students who are likely to have become infected at various private parties in connection with the university’s introduction week”.
To date, contact tracing has given no indication of students falling ill as a result of attending on-campus introduction activities at Tilburg University or Fontys University of Applied Sciences. The students who tested positive are currently in quarantine.
Partying at home
In Maastricht, a total of eighteen students had tested positive by Monday, reports university newspaper Observant. Alarm bells went off last week after two students from the city’s university became infected, both of whom had participated in the Maastricht introduction week.
Here too, GGD Zuid Limburg describes the source of the infections as “informal parties or get-togethers at home”. No evidence points to the students contracting the virus during official activities. On Wednesday, regional broadcaster 1Limburg reported a new running total of thirty cases among local students.
In Wageningen, seventeen students tested positive at the end of August and another 70 had to be quarantined. This peak coincided exactly with the student introduction period. Even so, the infections “can all be traced to informal get-togethers in student accommodation”, writes university magazine Resource.
One consolation for worried Wageningen students who want to get themselves tested: they won’t have far to travel. A permanent Covid testing facility has now been opened on the university campus, and not just for students.