Rector Carel Stolker of the University of Leiden twittered an urgent call to all students: do not organise house parties and avoid bars. His message may not have gone viral, but it did touch a nerve. It was retweeted 275 times.
His call addressed the fear that young people are indifferent to the virus as they seem to be less at risk. The problem is that they can transmit the virus to others. Furthermore, it seems that young people are more vulnerable (article in Dutch) than initially thought.
In the Bolkhuis, the student house behind the De Bolk association, the residents are complying with the health recommendations, insofar as they can. “Last Wednesday we had a coffee and talked about what our house should do,” says resident Aron during the Nth coffee break of the day to which seven housemates have come. “We are following the recommendations, such as hand washing and coughing into your elbow. But keeping a distance of one and a half metres is tricky. We share three toilets and three kitchens among 21 people. That simply doesn’t work.”
This is not the way! (Photo: Roos van Tongeren)
Thinking about behaviour
The public health institute RIVM does not have any special corona advice for student houses, but students must think about their behaviour. No gatherings in the house, no birthday celebrations etc.
“They should not gather together with too many people in communal spaces,” says RIVM spokesman Coen Berends. “And no physical contact, insofar as that is doable. Everyone should take good care of their personal hygiene.”
(Photo: Roos van Tongeren)
Duwo, the biggest student accommodation agent in Delft, wants to close large communal spaces. “We do not mean the kitchens in large student houses, but the communal spaces in complexes with many single-resident units,” explains a Duwo spokesperson. Duwo has also issued regulations and emphasised contacting the GGD (the occupational health and safety body) in case of health complaints and to then inform the landlord. They can then help where possible, for example if alternative temporary accommodation is needed.
The last few days have been fun at the Bolkhuis. “Everyone is at home. Usually there are about six people for dinner in the evening and now there are 13. Everyone plays games on a server and someone bakes a cake.”
“If someone goes shopping, he or she asks if anyone needs anything so that the others don’t need to go out.” (Photo: Roos van Tongeren)
But the residents do pay attention to the news. “We are more careful. For example, we all have our own mug while we used to just drink out of the dirty ones lying around. We wash our hands more often and for longer and now always use soap. If someone goes shopping, he or she asks if anyone needs anything so that the others don’t need to go out.”
But is that enough? After all, they do share everything. Are they worried? “I am worried about my grandmother,” says housemate Lotte, “but not for myself. I don’t think that you’ll die that easily. And if one person in the house gets it, we’ll all get it. That has already happened with stomach flu. It will then spread quickly but if we all stay indoors, we won’t spread it.” A couple of housemates were concerned and have gone to stay with their parents for the time being.
Back to your parents? Is that a good idea? That depends on their health and age and the situation in your student house. “My parents are closer to the risk group than my housemates,” concludes resident Puck, “so I will stay here.”
And what will the situation be like in three weeks’ time? “Either we’ll be completely fed up with each other, or we’ll be doing things together like a Mario Kart Tournament. Who knows?”
What can you do?
- Sneeze and cough in your elbow.
- Keep distance and avoid physical contact.
- Maintain hygiene: wash your hands more thoroughly and more often; wash cups, cutlery and crockery more often; double the cleaning rota.
- Have one person do all the shopping.
- Avoid contact with other student houses.
- Do not organise events with many people. So no meetings, birthdays or film evenings, no sports or eating together and no meetings with potential new residents. Use digital means to do these.
Roos van Tongeren and HOP, Bas Belleman