THE NETHERLANDS. Wash your hands, sneeze in your sleeve and use paper tissues. Beyond that, says the Dutch government, there’s little students and schools can do to stop the coronavirus.
Even now with 13 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus in the Netherlands (one of them is a student in Delft), schools and universities have been told not to close their doors. For the time being, they are to keep an eye on recommendations issued by their municipal health service (GGD).
A list of questions and answers published for education institutions by the national authorities explicitly states schools need not take precautionary measures. They should leave this to local health services and hospitals.
This hasn’t stopped anxiety over the coronavirus. In Wageningen, employees at the university’s LaptopShop posted a sign notifying customers that due to the virus they would not touch customer’s devices. The notice has since been removed. A university spokesperson called it misguided.
To the question of whether universities should bar students returning from holiday ski trips abroad, the president of the executive board of Erasmus University Rotterdam said this would be a bad idea. In a letter to all staff, he stressed that taking more rigorous action than prescribed cannot be justified.
Study trips and exchange projects may be a problem, however. Travel to affected regions such as northern Italy and China’s Hubei province is discouraged in travel advisories issued by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Students in infected areas are being advised to follow local authorities’ instructions. In some cases, travel may be suspended. If they are allowed to return to the Netherlands, students should notify their municipal health service.
Precautionary testing for the virus is pointless if a person doesn’t actually feel ill: “Even if someone is infected, there’s not enough of the virus in their body in those initial days. So we aren’t screening for the virus until symptoms appear.”
The government has opened a crisis hotline (0800-1351) which people can call with any questions, though much information is also available online.
What should you do if you feel ill? At present, it’s more likely to be the common cold or flu than a case of the coronavirus.
HOP, Bas Belleman