Test facility in MECC, Tuesday 18 August. Photo: Joey Roberts
MAASTRICHT. Maastricht University is dealing with an increasing number of corona infections. The counter now (31 August) stands at 18 students who tested positive for Covid-19. The cause could be sought in student houses where the rules have not always been observed.
Last Tuesday, two UM students turned out to have corona. They had participated in the Inkom, the introduction week of university. The GGD immediately started a source- and contact investigation. It now becomes clear that the students did not contract the virus during official physical events organized by the Workgroup Inkom. The source of contamination is in the private domain, says Elbersen. “That could also be a student house. Because people do not comply with the 1.5 meter rule, for example, because parties may have been organized.”
Christian Hoebe, professor at UM and head of infectious disease control at GGD Zuid Limburg, does not want to elaborate on the source. “We do not report anything about individual cases, but it is indeed a contamination in the ‘domestic atmosphere’, during parties or drinks.” In any case, the infected people come from more than one student house.
Did the increase come as a surprise? Hoebe: “You hope that this will not happen, given the measures we all have to take, but this is not really surprising. It is due to human behavior and during an introduction period in which you get to know people - especially during the night hours - your attention can weaken.”
The positively tested students did not only report to the GGD Zuid Limburg. The ‘bad’ news also came from GGDs in Brabant and Gelderland. Hoebe: “We exchange data where necessary and that makes the picture more complete. Nevertheless, it is not an easy puzzle that we have to solve.” For example, students have multiple home situations. Not only the Maastricht student house where they live with their peers, but also at home with father and mother, often elsewhere.
That the source of contamination really lies in Maastricht and not, for example, at the bakery in a village in Brabant, can be concluded from the source- and contact investigation.
“In the first meeting with the person who tested positive, you go back to the first day of illness, when he or she had the first symptoms. That day is important because someone is contagious two days before the complaints manifest themselves.” Then they contact housemates, “the closest close contacts. We recommend that they go into quarantine. As soon as complaints arise, they do good to have themselves tested. Usually one in five of that group actually gets corona.”
Then there is a second group: “Those with whom the person has been together for at least fifteen minutes within five feet. We see that this number can increase considerably among students, especially when there is a drink together. The risk of infection is about 5 percent.”
The third group, the “other contacts”, were in contact for a long time, but at a distance of 1.5 meters. The chance that they get corona is quite small, but they do have to keep an eye on their health.
And what about a kiss with someone, if only for two minutes? “Then he or she can also expect a phone call. That also falls under close contacts.”
UM is sending all students a personal e-mail today, urging them to take responsibility. "Maybe you think you are invulnerable," says Elbersen. “But it's not just about you, it's also about the health of others. We appeal to students’ common sense. Stick to the rules.”
UM applies strict safety regulations in its own buildings and adheres to the guidelines of the RIVM and the GGD, but what happens outside UM is difficult to contain, Elbersen admits.
There is also a (larger) corona outbreak among students in Wageningen. Seventy students were in quarantine there last Wednesday, newspaper De Gelderlander reported. It concerns residents of three student houses.
Here you can find a daily update about Covid-19 infections at UM