‘Education will stay open as long as possible if new coronavirus wave hits’

| HOP, Bas Belleman

In the event of another coronavirus spike, the government wants to keep education open as long as possible. Only when pupils, students and staff are in immediate danger will schools and universities be shut down again.

Education will be ‘at the bottom of the pile’ if the government is to take new measures against the coronavirus, the ministers of Health, Economic Affairs and Social Affairs write today in a letter to the House of Representatives. This will also be the case for childcare.

The government says there could be ‘a (partial) closure’ of education if there is no other option, but the ministers want to prevent such a closure ‘at all times’, the letter says.

Mental health

The government states that its Covid policy will be based on a desire to keep society open. This would, however, require cooperation from various sectors, for example by ensuring good ventilation and the use of walking routes and splash screens.

The government underlines the interests of young people in this regard. ‘We saw that the mental health of young people was under pressure during the pandemic due to the loss of social contacts and activities, for example in education, sports and the cultural sector.’

Free self-tests will remain available in education until the Christmas holidays, ‘unless it is decided earlier that they are no longer necessary’. In that case, the distribution of free tests will stop after the autumn holidays.

Education

To ensure enough capacity to handle a new wave, higher education and healthcare institutions must work together to train more care workers. The government wants special dual tracks that combine on-the-job training with education to be developed for third- and fourth-year nursing students in secondary vocational and higher professional education.

In addition, 800 students could enrol in a short Basic Acute Care (BAC) programme as early as this year. The healthcare institutions are to receive a 25,000 euro subsidy per student who completes their BAC training.

Won’t providing supervision to trainees reduce healthcare institutions’ capacity to offer care? Maybe so, which is why the government wants them to come up with ‘innovative forms of trainee supervision’ so that they can supervise more students without putting extra pressure on care provision.

There will also be special continuing education to allow surgical assistants and anaesthesia workers to obtain a nursing diploma. This will also offer them more career prospects, the government believes.

Waitlisted students

Finally, the government wants to deploy ‘waitlisted medical students’ if another coronavirus wave hits. These are medical students who are on the waiting list to do their internships. But this would also have to be useful for the students themselves: they should have a sense of autonomy and be able to decide what kind of work they’d like to do.

‘It is likely that we will see a resurgence of the virus in the near future, even though that might be difficult to imagine now, with summer approaching and no restrictive measures in force’, the letter concludes. ‘It is vital that we use this relatively calm period that the epidemic is giving us to maximise our prevention efforts, and to prepare for more serious scenarios.’

Meanwhile, there are still people who want to harm virologists. Marion Koopmans announced today that she would no longer be attending the Oerol festival after consultation with the police.