The advice issued on Wednesday was successfully followed in this lecture hall. Photo: DUB

Wear a face mask all the time, everywhere – but there are exceptions

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Last Friday, following the government's coronavirus press conference, UU advised students and teachers to wear face masks in the university's buildings. But do we have to do that "all the time, everywhere", like the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, said? The Executive Board sent out a more thorough explanation last Wednesday. 

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"After all, do I have to wear a face mask while teaching my classes or not?", wondered History teacher Arend Jan Boekestijn on Twitter. He was poking fun at the instructions on the website of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, which stated that "everyone should wear face masks while in transit through the school, sitting or standing".  

The coronavirus update sent by UU's Executive Board last Friday didn't make things any clearer. The e-mail stated that the "urgent advice is to wear a disposable face mask everywhere in the university buildings, where possible".

On Wednesday, the Executive Board sent a new update to explain things further, after getting additional information from the ministry. In short, yes, the idea is that everyone wears a face mask "all the time, everywhere", with a few exceptions, like students who can't wear face masks for medical reasons or students taking part in practical classes where face masks are unsafe.

Face mask on, face mask off
Although students are expected to wear face masks in the lecture halls, they are allowed to take them off if the face mask is a hindrance to communication or while eating or drinking. Students are also supposed to wear a face mask when studying in one of the university's buildings, but they can take it off if "the prolonged wearing of a face mask becomes too uncomfortable", as long as they stand at least 1.5 metres away from others. The same goes for exams.

Similar rules apply for employees who come to the university's premises to work or participate in meetings. The face mask should be worn all the time, but the employee can take it off if it gets too uncomfortable and no one else is around.

As for Arend Jan Boekestijn, he can take a sigh of relief. Teachers standing in front of a lecture hall can take their masks off, as long as they're 1.5 metres away from the students.

In addition, the university stresses its "strong preference" for surgical masks, instead of makeshift ones. Those who don't have surgical masks can take them at the receptions and the entrance of the examination rooms.

Students allowed to meet each other again
As expected, the Executive Board stated in the update that classes can take place on campus starting on February 7, the first day of Block 3. However, some classes and work groups are still going to take place online, as the government has once again established a limit of 75 students per lecture hall. Another reason for this is that both students and teachers can contract the coronavirus and therefore need to quarantine.

In the short term, the announced relaxations allow for students and teachers to meet each other again in UU's buildings, for activities like tutoring, for example. Student associations also have more room to organise activities, provided that they're small-scale and of educational nature. They can make use of the canteens for that.

Finally, UU employees are still advised to work from home as much as possible, although those that prefer to work on location may do so sporadically. Employees are also allowed to gather in groups of no more than 15 people for special occasions such as brainstorming sessions and outdoor meetings.

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