Students working together in the Koningsberger building right before the lockdown. Photo: DUB

Lockdown to end for higher education institutions

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This just in: institutions of higher education and secondary vocational education are going to be allowed to give classes face to face once again, under certain conditions, according to sources in The Hague. The ministers most closely involved with the matter are said to have taken that decision today, following discussions with advisors.

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As from Saturday, people will once again be able to go to non-essential shops, hairdressers and other contact professions, as long as they have an appointment, report RTL Nieuws and NOS. Gyms will reopen too, but the hospitality and culture sectors are set to remain closed, according to the two news outlets, quoting sources in The Hague.

The government’s decision is based on the latest scenarios outlined by the Outbreak Management Team, who considered that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus doesn't make people as sick as previously feared.

The news will only become official if announced by Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Minister of Health Ernst Kuipers at their press conference next Friday evening.

Strain
On Wednesday, student organisations, educational institutions and psychiatrists emphasised the need for higher education and secondary vocational education to reopen. They referred to the huge emotional strain that the lockdown is placing on students. The new minister of education, Robbert Dijkgraaf, also stressed that reopening educational institutions was high on his list of priorities.

It is not yet clear under what conditions and to what extent university campuses will be allowed to operate again. On Monday, the OMT wrote that students and teachers must wear medical face masks on campus, not only when moving around inside the building but also when attending “classes in larger groups”.

Face masks
In an interview with Vox (the news medium of Radboud University Nijmegen), OMT member Andreas Voss clarified that face masks would also have to be worn during tutorials and exams. He also said that the higher education sector should think carefully about the use of face-to-face education: “Lectures for large groups of students could remain online, while tutorials with a fixed format could take place face to face with social distancing and good ventilation.

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