‘Aaaa… choo!’ your housemate sneezes. Oh no, could it be COVID-19? Are you allowed to go to campus or do you have to stay at home? We set out the rules for those who want to do their bit in times of coronavirus.
The basic rules are simple: wash your hands regularly, practice social distancing, ensure a supply of fresh air and stay at home (and get tested) if symptoms appear. Cough and sneeze into your elbow.
In the case of mild symptoms you are now allowed to rely on a self-test and you do not necessarily have to go to a GGD test site. That is needed only if the self-test shows two lines. Students can get self-tests free of charge and in fact they should use them at least twice a week, even if they have no symptoms. After all, you do not always know that you are carrying the virus.
Another relevant rule for a student residence: do not receive more than four guests per day and visit someone else no more than once a day. Take a self-test beforehand. Just to be sure.
If you are infected, you must remain in isolation for at least one week. For instance, if you become ill on Friday, the following Friday is the last day of your isolation, as long as you have had no symptoms for at least 24 hours. (Check the medical exceptions.)
And then the specific rules for student residences. If one of your housemates has mild coronavirus-like symptoms, you do not have to go into quarantine yourself. This changes if and as soon as that housemate has a fever or shortness of breath or in the case of a positive self-test. You must then immediately stay at home until there is an official result of a test at the GGD. So you cannot even go to the supermarket.
If that housemate indeed has COVID-19, take a self-test. If that test is positive, get tested as soon as possible at the GGD. However, the test can also show a false negative; sometimes it takes a while before the infection can be seen. So you need to stay at home and get tested at the GGD on the fifth day, just to be sure.
With all the different forms of housing, the question is when exactly the student residence is considered one household. And are you ‘housemates’ if you very rarely see one another? For example, if you only share the corridor, or the bathroom and kitchen. Does everyone have to go into quarantine if and as soon as a housemate along the corridor has COVID-19?
That information is hard to find. When we asked the questions, we were sent from one body to another. At the RIVM they do not know precisely. ‘Good question’, said the spokesperson, ‘but actually we only provide recommendations. We don't set the rules.’ He did, however, make an attempt at answering the question. In his opinion what matters is the number of times you have contact with one another. ‘If someone in the house has tested positive and you had no contact with that person, you don’t have to worry so much.’
He referred us to the Ministry of Health but the spokesperson there simply referred us to the Nationale Kernteam Crisiscommunicatie [National Core Team for Crisis Communication] (NKC). That was hard to find but eventually we got someone on the line. He did not know either. ‘It is difficult to set hard and fast rules for all the situations in student residences. It’s also a question of using your common sense.’
The NKC referred us further to the Ministry of Education but the spokesperson there said that they are ‘rather detailed questions’ that require investigation. He will get back to us.
So staying at home is not always an easy decision for students to take. In addition, students often have an attendance requirement and programme directors are not in a hurry to introduce hybrid teaching. Consequently, it is difficult to keep up with the course material if you stay home, and some students, in contravention of the rules, go to campus anyway.