MAASTRICHT. So far, 25 students from Maastricht University have reported sick for education activities. They will stay at home because they are sneezing or coughing or have a fever in combination with having recently returned from a high-risk area for the corona virus, such as Northern Italy. In such cases, the UM advises to remain at home for two days and see how the illness progresses. No student or member of staff has yet been diagnosed with the so-called Covid-19 virus.
The numbers are constantly changing, but on Wednesday afternoon 4 March 25 students have reported sick, says Nick Bos, vice president of the Executive Board, who heads the crisis management team. On top of that, there are about twenty students who aren’t ill, but did recently came back from an ‘infected’ area and reported themselves out of precaution. “We advise them to participate in education”, says Bos. There is contact on a daily basis with this group (total of 45). “Out of care, we want to know how they feel.” Exactly how many members of staff have reported sick, is unclear. This is done through the managers.
“We know that all those infected with the corona virus get a fever,” says Christian Hoebe, UM professor and head of infectious diseases control for the local health authority, GGD Zuid Limburg (responsible for the fight against the corona virus and monitoring people). “So, anyone returning from a high-risk area and has a runny nose will notice soon enough whether it is a common cold or an infection by the corona virus.” To confirm the latter, a test will have to be carried out.
Hoebe says that the municipal health services have everything under control for now. “With all the people who have been infected, the links can be made back to the source and as long as we can do that, there is no widespread transfer of the disease, like in Northern Italy. We are trying to implement a policy that is as rational as possible. This situation of increasing contamination can last for months. Locking everything down serves no purpose now.” Nevertheless, he does understand the choices made by some businesses, such as DSM, who have appealed to their employees to work from home. “They are free to do so.”
Delft University of Technology has gone a step further than other educational institutes. Anyone who coughs should stay at home, the Delft Executive Board advises, even if they have never been to a high-risk area. A 23-year-old student from Delft recently returned from the Northern Italy with the virus and was ‘isolated’.
In The Hague, political party PVV has asked questions in parliament about a skiing trip with almost a thousand students to Northern Italy by student association Vindicat from Groningen. Last Tuesday the Ministry of Foreign Affairs updated its travel advice to this region, warning against all but essential travel. The PVV wants to know from the education minister whether she thinks that the trip was an unwise and irresponsible choice.
The areas deemed risky by the RIVM, include - besides Northern Italy - China, Taiwan, Macau, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Iran. “The German border region Gangelt has been specifically added for Limburg,” says professor Hoebe. In that area close to Sittard, the corona virus is causing havoc.
Hoebe also stresses that people with just a cough do not need to call a GP. “It is important that people match the complaints profile (coughing, problems with their airways, fever) as well as the fact that they have been in a high-risk area.” He adds that the corona infection has a “mild development” for the majority of patients.
The UM advises everyone to wash their hands regularly with soap, to cough and sneeze into the inside of the elbow, and to use paper tissues instead of cotton ones. Shaking hands is also advised against.