Universities stop short of imposing face-mask rule

Students and university staff are not yet required to wear face masks on campus, the website of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) states. TU/e hasn't decided yet what to do with this issue. It's working together with the Eindhoven city mayor and Fontys to see if they can draw up a clear plan for our region, which will follow later this week.

The Dutch debate about face masks is far from over. Last night, the Mayor of Amsterdam, Femke Halsema, went further than the national recommendations announced by Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Deputy Prime Minister Hugo De Jonge. She is strongly advising everyone to wear a face mask in “publicly accessible indoor spaces”. As does the Eindhoven Mayor John Jorritsma.

Universities are not publicly accessible indoor spaces, which is why they believe that students and staff do not have to wear face masks on campus, at least for the time being. “Of course we will comply with any additional measures imposed by the regional authorities,” VSNU writes in an update of their policy. “Everyone is free to decide whether or not they want to wear a face mask.”

Checks at the door

Those additional measures appear to be just around the corner. Together with several other regional authorities, Halsema plans to ask ‘institutions’, the hospitality industry and retailers to only grant access to people who wear a face mask.

Apparently the universities are not yet sure whether they fall under Halsema’s definition of ‘institutions’. This should become clear in the coming week.

Needless to say, the latest raft of anti-Covid measures will change many aspects of university life, and life across the country. “PhD ceremonies, speeches, graduation ceremonies and other events can still be organized on a small scale with a maximum of 30 people in attendance,” the universities explain.

Stricter compliance

University staff will also be required to comply more strictly with the guidelines for working from home. Until further notice, they can only come to campus if there is no other option available. “Universities will inform their own employees about the consequences of the measures per institution.”

Students will continue to have slightly more freedom of movement. “Self-study on campus remains one of the educational activities that are permitted.” Naturally the standard rules continue to apply, such as keeping a distance of 1.5 metres and staying at home if you have any symptoms.

Dutch universities have previously called on students to take their responsibility under the motto “choose classes over parties”.

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