“I’ve got an exam tomorrow, and that’s still going ahead!” says third-year medical student Josje Gerth (22) who’s on her way to the coffee machine in the Erasmus MC study area. She doesn’t mind, though. “I’ve been revising for it all whole week, so that would have been a waste of time if it had been cancelled.”

On Wednesday evening, the medical faculty announced that in response to coronavirus, there would be no more lectures for groups of over thirty students. Education involving physical contact will also be suspended, and students are being asked not to study in the Education Centre. Faculty association MFVR has decided to close student café ’t Vat too. So: from Friday, no cheap toasties or beer at Hoboken.


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Coronavirus: Erasmus MC stops large-scale lectures

Lectures with more than thirty students are suspended. This is to slow down the spread of…

On Thursday morning, it’s no quieter than usual. In the classrooms next to the Education Centre, teaching staff are still supervising work groups. Cora from the espresso bar next to the study area: “It seems just like a normal day. The days always start quietly; things start getting busy around eleven, half past eleven. However, our catering company has had a lot of cancellations for the rest of the week.”

‘I’m not in the risk group; I can’t concentrate at home’

Josje Gerth is prepared to take the risk of studying here. “I’m not in the risk group and I need to be here with the exam coming up. Staying at home and trying to concentrate there doesn’t work for me.”

She understands why the faculty is taking these measures, as do most of the students and staff in the Education Centre on Thursday morning. “There are people here who have a lot of contact with patients – we’re in a hospital with patients. It’s logical that you decide to take measures in their interest. They’re a vulnerable group.”

So why is Gerth’s exam, for all third-year students, still going ahead? “Well, perhaps because it’s at Woudestein? But I’d prefer it went ahead anyway.”

For a member of staff in the Education Centre (‘prefers not to give name’), it all feels slightly half-hearted. “Why hold lectures for thirty students and not for more? I’d say: stop everything or nothing. But I’m not the one taking the decision.”

On Thursday morning, the big lecture halls are empty, except for technician Koen van der Zalm. Occasionally he talks into the microphone attached to the catheter in front of him and his voice echoes through the empty room. Someone was supposed to be defending their thesis today, but that’s been moved to Woudestein. “I’m testing the livestream facilities. At the moment, we’re broadcasting on our own YouTube account.”

Will the measures mean that lectures will be livestreamed too? “I don’t know. I don’t think the decision has been taken at the top yet.”

‘Anniversary soon, not cool if it doesn’t go ahead’

The measures are mainly causing students uncertainty about their life planning; they’ll survive the illness. Fourth-year medical student Tim is primarily concerned about his residencies, which start in five weeks’ time. The plan was to work in Maasstad hospital. “In Leiden, I heard that residents wouldn’t be allowed in the hospital. If that happens here, everyone’s studies will be delayed and that’s not great.” Another student in the corridor: “My association’s anniversary parties are planned soon; it won’t be cool if they don’t go ahead. We’ll have to wait to see what happens.”

Despite the declining number of customers in her ‘shop’, Cora thinks it’s good that the faculty is taking measures, but she emphasises: no panic. “Let’s not overexaggerate. I recently sneezed in the metro. Well, everyone moved back. My advice: stay calm, people. It’ll all be fine.”