Rutte: ‘It’s a big let-down for higher education’

| HOP, Bas Belleman

The lockdown for higher education is going to last for at least another month, Prime Minister Rutte and Minister De Jonge announced during their press conference this week. Nonetheless, they think that rapid testing will allow some easing.

The only good news on Tuesday was about the curfew: as of 31 March it will be starting an hour later. Everything else is going to stay the way it is. ‘This is obviously another big let-down for all educational institutions and students in higher education’, Rutte said.

The government is going to keep looking at what can be opened up, Rutte promised. ‘So, for example, if after a week the statistics look like they’re improving, then we won’t hesitate to bring forward our plans for opening up outdoor cafes, shops and higher education. When we can, we will act quickly.’

Rapid testing

De Jonge sees possibilities for higher education from 26 April. ‘Lateral flow tests and self-testing are going to help us make lower-risk things possible in the coming weeks’, he said. ‘We are continuing and expanding with our rapid testing pilots in institutes of higher education, and in April we’ll start with self-testing.’

If infection rates aren’t too high, institutes of higher education ‘who can organise self-testing’ will be able to offer on campus teaching to their students one day a week. 

The idea is that students do a quick lateral flow test in the morning after brushing their teeth, and then go to class. He still doesn’t know how quickly it can all be rolled out. ‘And that’s why we are being cautious right now.’

Not in the fridge

Some in academe are a bit sceptical about rapid testing. ‘For the record, we still haven’t been informed about anything and the tests are not in our fridge’, Ron Bormans, Chair of Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, tweeted.

Others think that the tests will make it possible to open up more. ‘We were able to set it up ourselves in a month’, the coordinator of trials at Avans University of Applied Sciences, HAS University of Applied Sciences and Koning Willem I College told the NOS. ‘You do need people in your organisation who are really serious about taking this on board.’