Six questions about the coronavirus to the UT crisis team

| Jelle Posthuma

The coronavirus is on the rise in the Netherlands. Up to now, there are no known cases of infection on the campus. Six questions about the current situation at the UT to spokesperson Laurens van der Velde, member of the UT crisis team.

Crisis team

The team consists of the Executive Board and a representation of all service departments, with Victor van der Chijs as chairman. They meet twice a week to discuss the state of affairs with regard to the coronavirus and to take measures where necessary.

What is the situation at the UT?

‘Up to now, we have not received any reports from employees or students with the coronavirus. Two students are voluntarily in home insulation. They have no symptoms of the coronavirus, but were recently in South Korea and in China. The crisis team monitors the situation as closely as possible and follows the national guidelines of RIVM and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: our daily life must continue as usual. The UT agrees with this.’

Are the Open Days of next week at risk?

‘We are keeping a close eye on things, but we are not going to cancel any events yet. However, the situation in the future may force us to take other measures. There are many study seekers who ask if they can come to the Open Days. For example, they are about to book their flight tickets. To them we say: we do not intend to cancel the Open Days, but booking a ticket is at your own risk.’

Does the UT take extra measures, such as handing out hand sanitizers?

‘We plan to hand out disinfectant hand gel on campus, but that must be feasible. There is currently a run on these gels due to the coronavirus. Let me put it this way: if we can get the hand gel tomorrow, we will hand it out tomorrow. We also noticed that the soap on the toilets runs out quickly. People thoroughly wash their hands, which is of course a good thing. We ensure that these reservoirs are regularly topped up. Thanks to the good cooperation with the supplier, the soap supply is currently not a problem.’

Is the UT community at greater risk, given its international and open nature?

‘That is a bit of a complicated question. On the one hand, we run more risk because we are an international community. We travel a lot and we get a lot of visitors on our campus. There is a lot of contact between different people. On the other hand, we also notice that staff and students take measures regarding hygiene and travel seriously. That makes the risk a little lower. It is therefore difficult to say whether we are running more or less risk than average.’

Do you get a lot of questions from staff and students?

‘There is - all together – quite some need for additional information. Do I have to book a flight ticket or not? Can I visit a conference? Is it possible to receive guests on campus? An information page has been set up for these questions. The following also applies for this page: we follow the national guidelines.'

In which scenario will there be a lockdown?

‘There is no specific scenario in which the UT will be closed. The situation must tell whether that is necessary or not. It is difficult to speculate about this situation: there is no hard limit and many factors play a role. Moreover, the authorities can decide to close the UT, and the university has no influence on that.’