THE NETHERLANDS. Prime Minister Mark Rutte confirmed yesterday evening that institutes of higher education will open their doors again starting on 15 June for practicals, exams and guidance for vulnerable students.
The fight against the coronavirus is still heading in the right direction: infections are down, as are ICU admissions. This is why the PM announced further relaxations of the lockdown measures yesterday. The brakes are slowly being released.
Colleges and universities may once again open their campuses for specific activities, as had previously been suggested. Nevertheless, most educational activities will remain online for the time being. Students can only come to campus if there is no other option, such as for practicals.
All educational activities and exams must take place between 11.00 and 15.00 or after 20.00 so that students can travel outside rush hour. There is some scope for customisation, however, according to information provided by the government.
The leeway that is to be allowed seems to be meant to placate critical institutional administrators. Geert ten Dam, president of the University of Amsterdam, warned last weekend about the consequences of the restrictions. Building occupancy will remain severely restricted. Moreover, if students are scheduled to start classes late and leave early, then there is little to be gained from on-campus activities.
An additional guideline may provide some relief: classes and exams may also start before 15.00 and end after 20.00. A schedule like this would also keep students out of public transport during rush hour and would give institutions more scope for planning classes and exams.
Starting on 1 June, anyone traveling by public transport must wear a face mask or risk a fine of 95 euros.
Another measure is also worth noting in view of the agreeable weather: outdoor cafés will reopen on 1 June. Moreover, people who are members of the same household will no longer be required to maintain a social distance of 1.5m.
It should be noted that the residents of a student house are not considered to be members of a single household. Fines have already been given to housemates sitting together in the public space.
The PM emphasised yesterday that all general measures will remain in force: everyone must keep a distance of 1.5m, wash their hands thoroughly and frequently, use paper tissues, and cough and sneeze inside the elbow. People with symptoms should remain in isolation at home.
HOP, Bas Belleman