A total of some two thousand litres of hand gel, hand spray and surface spray, 120 disinfectant stands at the entrances, almost a 100 thousand non-medical facemasks, hundreds, if not thousands of posters with instructions. Yes, it was a race against the clock, the two admit. All 52 UM buildings had to be declared COVID-19-proof by them by 31 August. Using a checklist, over a period of three and a half weeks, they made sure that the faculties and service centres had matters under control. Maris and Van Eekeren emphasise that a tremendous effort was made over the past month. Not only did every management unit write its own protocol – how can we make the buildings as safe as possible – but then the practical work started: walking routes through the corridors and classrooms, card readers at the entrance, checking ventilation systems, removing chairs or marking them with ribbons so that the maximum number of people in a room is not exceeded, taping off chairs in lecture halls, setting up disinfectant stands, hand gel dispensers in various places, disinfectant spray in toilets, hanging up posters, applying stickers, placing coughing screens at desks, et cetera, et cetera.
In this preparatory period, the two were also consulted often. “It started in May with the University Library and UM Sports, who wanted advice, and after that it spread like wildfire, we were in fact asked too much,” Van Eekeren grins. Every building is different, so the solution had to be tailor-made. A one-way walking system was not always possible, sometimes there is only one way in and out. And certainly in older buildings, the staircases and corridors are so narrow that you can’t pass someone by. In those cases, priority regulations are a good solution. Added to that is the fact that the RIVM (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment) recommendations, which are leading for the UM, change very quickly and can sometimes be interpreted in several ways. “We saw all kinds of variants. How many people are allowed in one room? First, everyone must have 12 square metres to him-/herself, there were units that subsequently concluded that in a room smaller than 25 square metres, only one person was allowed. Eventually, time caught up on us and the one-and-a-half-metre rule was leading. But even that led to a discussion: was it one-and-a-half-metres per person and so three metres between two people, or one-and-a-half-metres between two people.” So it’s the latter.
Maris and Van Eekeren walked between eight and fifteen kilometres a day during these last weeks before the opening of the academic year, every corner in every building was inspected. And now let’s hope that everyone will take their responsibility, the two say. “One hundred per cent COVID-19-proof doesn’t exist, it only takes one contagious employee or student to enter and you’ve got trouble on your hands. Together with the building managers, caretakers, colleagues from Facility Services, movers, employees from faculties and services, we have done everything to ensure that employees and students can work and study safely on campus. But our work can only be successful if everyone participates.”