Not 2G but 3G in higher education

| HOP, Bas Belleman

If the Covid pass does become mandatory in higher education after all – and it looks like it will – then students will only be given access to campus if they have been vaccinated, have recovered from the disease or have a negative test. Also known as 3G.

That’s the gist of a draft decision government ministers sent to the House of Representatives today. The consultative bodies who usually participate in the decision-making process have thereby been side-lined without a chance of discussing implementation.

The arrival of the draft decision (and an accompanying proposed bill) had already been announced in a letter issued by Hugo de Jonge, the Minister of Health. Coronavirus infection rates are rising at such a fast rate that the government is considering drastic measures.

No lockdown

It’s still unclear whether the Covid pass will actually become required on campus, but Minister of Education Van Engelshoven is adamant that higher education will not be subjected to another lockdown. Let it be a Covid pass, then, she’s said time and again.

The option of requiring a Covid pass for higher education was already set out in a temporary law last spring, which nevertheless also states that consultative bodies have a veto. This new decision side-steps the veto.

It’s not clear what the political parties in the House of Representatives will think of the proposal. So far they have kept their powder dry.

Higher education institutions will also have to provide ‘accessible facilities where students can be tested for infection with the virus SARS-CoV-2’, the draft decision says. Schools would also have to make sure the necessary information is provided.

Assurance

Furthermore, institutions would have to ensure that students without a Covid pass will still be able to follow their study programmes. It is not yet clear what would happen if that assurance can’t be given.

The government wants to allow the same exceptions that were in effect during the lockdowns. Meaning that students won’t need to have a Covid pass to sit an exam. This would also hold for ‘vulnerable students’ who come to campus for supervision. Practical training programmes would also be exempted.

The exceptions would apply ‘under the condition that a suitable level of protection can be reached in a different way’. This raises the prospect of social distancing, face masks, limited group sizes, and so on.

The government wants MPs to vote this decision into law as quickly as possible to make headway in controlling the spread of infection. We don’t know yet whether a majority will be willing to cooperate in this wish.