Social distancing to be ditched at university, green light for Grand Prix
Prime minister Mark Rutte will announce on Friday evening that universities and colleges can open their doors the coming academic year without social distancing, Dutch media reported on Friday.
The measure is set to be announced at Friday evening’s press conference, during which Rutte and health minister Hugo de Jonge will outline what the next stage in tackling the coronavirus pandemic will entail.
Although the measure has not yet been confirmed, university chiefs have welcomed the rumours, saying it is good news for both education and students. Hbo colleges resume on August 30, with university courses starting a week later.
As yet it is unclear what measures will remain in operation in higher education. According to some reports, ministers may put a limit of 75 on the number of students in lecture theatres. Others suggest one-way systems will be introduced indoors and face masks will remain compulsory outside class.
Ministers are also set to give the green light to the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Zandvoort, due to take place the first weekend in September, broadcaster NOS reported.
Ernst Kuipers, head of hospital acute care services, said he is concerned that the number of positive coronavirus tests will increase if too many measures are reduced too soon, echoing comments made by several experts earlier in the week.
‘We need to take growth into account when there is more movement,’ he told Nieuwsuur on Thursday evening. ‘People will be going back to work, returning from holiday and the schools are opening again. And that means the number of infections will rise.’
Around 2,500 cases a day are being reported, and although hospital admissions appear to be stabilizing, there are still too many people in intensive care wards, Kuipers said. ‘This time last year we had 20 people in an IC ward, now we have 200,’ he told the programme.
Kuipers also urged the government to encourage more people who have not yet been vaccinated to step forward. Some 71% of adults in the Netherlands are now fully protected and a further 14% have had one dose.
Specialists in medical ethics have also urged the government to take the initiative in the debate about compulsory vaccination and to answer difficult questions about whether, for example, people can refuse to be treated by a nurse who has not been vaccinated.
‘Everyone is talking about making vaccinations mandatory but that is not a discussion in the Netherlands,’ Gert van Dijk, a specialist in medical ethics at Erasmus University, said on Twitter. ‘But that means other, more relevant questions risk being buried.’
DutchNews.nl will be reporting live from the press conference, which starts at 7pm, via Twitter.
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