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“What is the penalty for not wearing a facemask?”

“What is the penalty for not wearing a facemask?”

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Observant

Covid-19 security protocol

MAASTRICHT. A lot of obscurity, so there were many questions in the University Council about the Covid-19 security protocol. The latest version was discussed during the University Council meeting last Wednesday afternoon. What is the penalty for not wearing a facemask? Who is going to monitor this? And is this legally watertight?

Meanwhile, version four is on the table and measure number two is a new one: facemasks are compulsory in all university buildings. They may only be removed in the work place or in classrooms. Whoever does not adhere to the rules, will be liable to disciplinary action by the corona stewards. From now, they may also address personnel, instead of only students. Building managers may even refuse offenders temporary entry, Arends explains.

“How will that work in practice?” council member Maarten van Wesel wants to know. Pauline Arends, head of Health and Safety at Maastricht University: “The corona stewards address people who are not sticking to the rules. If they do not comply, the steward can ask them for their UM card to register their details.” Van Wesel: “But if the offender subsequently refuses to hand over his/her card and the steward first has to go get the building manager, that person will of course, be long gone by then.”

The council thinks that this is not clear in the protocol. The fact that the stewards can ask for the UM card, for example, is not stated, the council member on behalf of the student fraction, Alastair Hannaford, remarked. “Also, does the UM realise how difficult it is for a student to address a lecturer?” Impossible, says Arends. “Corona stewards don’t work at the faculty where they study. Hannaford knows that at the law faculty they do. Why is this not mentioned in the protocol?

The council is also worried about capacity: will there be enough stewards to carry out all the duties? Student council member Ezekiel Stevens: “Stewards who have to check whether everyone is wearing a facemask as they enter the building cannot do their job properly if they also have to supervise the UM building outside to make sure there are no groups of more than four people.”

Can you actually make the wearing of facemasks compulsory, student council member Thomas Vaessen asks? “The Prime Minister said during a press conference that a national compulsory order was not legally possible (yet).” It is possible, says President Martin Paul. “We can set our own house rules.”

There is also little appreciation of measure number six. Study associations can no longer organise activities at the university, not even if these are education-related. Would it not be better to allow such activities with supervision by the UM, Vaessen asks? Now it’s only a matter of time before we will see ‘illegal’ gatherings at home. Vice President Nick Bos: “That is not up to us, those are government rules.”

The council is more worried than it should be, Bos emphasised several times. “So far, our approach has worked. A large majority of the employees and students adhere to the rules. There have been no problems for the stewards these last few weeks.” Bos admits that not everything has been worked out perfectly on paper, but there is a reason for that. “We find ourselves in a crisis situation. After every press conference by the Prime Minister, things change again. We are continuously working on this.” Bos would appreciate it if “the council would notice the efforts made by the Executive Board in an ever-changing reality. Look at how things actually are, they are going well. The total number of coronavirus cases at the UM can be counted on the fingers of two hands. There is no indication whatsoever that the university is a source of contamination.”

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