Minister says rapid testing will allow spring campus openings

Minister Van Engelshoven expects that some students will be able to safely return to campus thanks to coronavirus rapid testing. How is the rapid testing pilot going at AE?

Will we be seeing this scene again on campus in spring? (Photo: Thomas Zwart)

It appears the Ministry of Health has stocks of 26 million such tests. A whole warehouse full, Trouw reports, with shipments being added weekly. Why don’t we use all those tests to re-open schools faster, trade unions want to know. 

Education Minister Van Engelshoven sees an opportunity here, but doesn’t want to be precipitous. She expects that the use of rapid testing will allow all institutes of higher education to open (partially) in the spring. “We want to do that as quickly as possible, as long as it’s safe and responsible to do so”, she told ANP.

Her spokesperson indicated to NRC that the rapid tests can’t be deployed on a large scale without self-testing. Right now the tests have to be carried out under the supervision of a medical professional.

Pilots at TU Delft 
The same goes for the quick test pilot at the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, which started on 2 March at the flight test. This practical, which has been held annually since 1945, had to be discontinued halfway last year due to the lockdown. Students who missed the flight from Rotterdam Airport then, about 150, can make it up this year. This is in addition to the three hundred third-year students who are now following the course.

The students are very enthusiastic

In the coming weeks, four groups of students will be flying in the TU Delft Cessna every day. Those who wish to do so will receive a PCR test and a quick test 48 hours before the flight at the GGD in Delft, where the reliability of the latter can be examined. The pilots and flight coordinators also have to undergo this. They have to be tested twice or three times a week, depending on how often they fly. Participation in the test is voluntary. Those who do not want to, can complete the course in an alternative way.

In the meantime, all possible hygiene measures apply: in the hangar, walking routes have been established, everyone has to disinfect their hands, keep a distance of 1.5 metres where possible and wear a medical face mask. The aircraft and the headsets worn by people on board are disinfected after every flight.

According to Director of Education Joris Melkert, who is also participating in the flight as flight coordinator, the pilot project is going well. He has not heard of any students who do not want to participate. “The practical is running as usual, but with a lot of extra measures. It is tightly organised and the students I see are very enthusiastic.”

HOP, Evelien Flink/Delta, Saskia Bonger

HOP Hoger Onderwijs Persbureau

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