No return to social distancing in higher education

Primary schools will close for the Christmas holidays a week early, but nothing will change for the time being as far as higher education institutions are concerned.

A face mask is not compulsory in the lecture hall, but it is in the corridors. (Photo: Justyna Botor)

Students have to keep wearing face masks in the hallways. And a maximum of 75 students may gather in a lecture room. That number may increase only for exams, if it can be done safely.

For a while it looked like there was a misunderstanding, because on Tuesday evening outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte spoke of a maximum group size of “75 people social distancing in higher education”. That would have been slightly stricter than now.

It was also to be found on the government’s website, but it was wrong. A correction was soon made. Despite the rapid advance of the omicron variant, about which the government is extremely concerned, students do not have to socially distance in the lecture halls and no face mask has to be worn.

Christmas time
The current coronavirus measures, such as the evening lockdown from 17.00, are being extended until 14 January and even stricter rules might yet be introduced. “That isn’t the message you hope for at Christmas time”, said Rutte. “So yes, it’s a blow.”

The government wants to speed up the booster jabs: everyone aged 18 and over will get an invitation no later than in the second half of January for an extra vaccination against COVID-19.

The basic rules still apply: maintain a distance of one and a half metres, wash your hands, work from home if possible, receive no more than four visitors per day, take self-tests, stay at home if you have COVID-like symptoms, and so on.

New Minister of Education, Culture and Science?
This was possibly Hugo de Jonge’s last press conference as minister of Health. A rumour is going around that, if he wants, he can become the new minister of Education.

Who knows. He once worked at the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, including as political assistant to education ministers Van der Hoeven and Van Bijsterveldt. In Rotterdam he was alderman both for Health and for Education. Additionally, he used to be a primary school teacher.

At the press conference, Rutte and De Jonge wanted to talk only about COVID-19. They brushed aside all questions about the next government. The four coalition parties will present their new agreement on Wednesday. The members of the new government will take office in January.

HOP, Bas Belleman
Translation: Taalcentrum-VU

HOP Hoger Onderwijs Persbureau

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