With the special ‘quarantine wing’ in the Guesthouse on the Brouwersweg, Maastricht University is anticipating the arrival of international students from orange or red areas who are going to follow the advice from the Dutch government to ‘confine themselves’ for ten days. According to Maurice Evers, head of student housing at the UM, that is not for 24 hours a day. For example, they may go to the shop for supplies or just to take a short walk. Stricter rules apply to the isolation corridor. Isolation really means: no visitors, not going outside. The cleaning crew will also have to work more intensively and take sufficient protective measures.
Depending on the students’ choice, meals will be put at their doors or an order will be delivered by thuisbezorgd.nl. In addition, the Guesthouse team will take care of the students’ “wellbeing”, says Evers. There is always the possibility of loneliness, he confirms.
Although the separate wing was initially meant for Guesthouse tenants, since recently students without a room are also welcome in the wing, upon advice from the UM’s Executive Board. This is the group that still hasn’t arranged anything, is sleeping on a friend’s sofa, et cetera. Obviously, the quarantine rooms have to be paid for (100 euro for two weeks).
There are a total of 45 quarantine and isolation rooms. Should the need become greater, the number can “be increased to more than a hundred,” says Evers.
It is a blessing in disguise; in other years there was not a single place left on the campus in September. “We only have 65 to 70 per cent occupancy because the exchange programmes have been cancelled. Our occupancy rate is at a historical low.”
At the same time, all Guesthouse locations in the city (in addition to Annadal, there are another nine buildings for a total of 930 students) are in use. “We offer our corridors one by one to the rental market, so that nobody feels isolated. That is nicer for the students, but also more efficient for the cleaning staff, for example. The Guesthouse, by the way, is not the only one suffering, says Evers. “The same applies to other rental parties in the city who focus on short-stay room letting.”
Those who appear not to be suffering as a result of COVID-19, are the private landlords and corporations that focus on longer letting periods. “I heard from Huib van Gastel from the association of room-letting services Maastricht (VVWM, Vereniging Verhuurders Woonruimtes Maastricht), which many letting parties have joined, that they are actually busier. First-year students started looking sooner and arrived earlier, because they didn’t have central exams. There was also no decline in the number of foreign students.”
Despite the present short-stay crisis, more student rooms are being added in Maastricht, as was planned by the Maastricht city council. The increase will be 2,900 units in the next six years. In Randwyck, on the grounds of the UM’s former sports hall, 252 prefabricated and furnished student homes arrived this summer. The units will remain there for ten years. The former office building Europahave in Heer has been extensively renovated. It provides sufficient space for 127 students.