Photo: Flickr cc Roel Wijnants

Rutte confirms higher education will remain in lockdown for a month

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"A huge damper for higher education". That's how the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, announced that universities and universities of applied sciences will remain closed for at least one more month, during his press conference with the Minister of Health yesterday. However, he believes that rapid tests could offer more opportunities than what is currently possible.

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The only good news from yesterday's press conference concerns the curfew, which will start one hour later from March 31st. Everything else stays exactly the same. "Yet another huge damper for all institutions and students in higher education", stated the Prime Minister. 

Nevertheless, he promised that the Cabinet will keep looking into the things that can still be done. "So, if the infection rate continues to drop a week from now, for example, then we will not hesitate to carry out our intentions regarding pavement cafés, stores and universities. In that case, we can and will act quickly".

Rapid tests
Hugo De Jonge, the Minister of Health, estimates higher education institutions to be able to reopen by April 26. "Self-tests and access tests will help us enable some things to happen in a safe way in the coming weeks", he said. "We will continue with the rapid test pilots in higher education, expand them and switch to self-testing in April".

If the infection rates aren't too high, then higher education institutions shall be able to allow students to attend classes on campus one day a week, provided that they're "equipped to organise rapid tests". 

The idea is that students will take a rapid test in the morning, right after brushing their teeth and getting ready for school. The Minister just doesn't know yet how fast this can be arranged. "That's why we're careful not to confirm anything".

Not in the fridge
Some people reacted with skepticism to De Jonge's speech about rapid tests. "For the record: we still don't know anything about it and there are certainly no tests in our fridge", tweeted Ron Bormans, Chairman of the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences.

Others do think such tests could offer a solution. "We're going to set that up ourselves in a month", the coordinator of a trial at Avans, HAS, and the secondary school Willem I, stated to Dutch news outlet NOS. "You need people in your organisation who are willing to take this seriously".

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