Rector Carel Stolker of Leiden University tweeted an urgent call to all students: for the time being, don’t throw house parties and stay away from bars. While his message hasn’t gone viral as such, it did touch a nerve. It was retweeted 275 times.
Stolker’s call touches on the fear that young people are nonchalant about the virus: they seem to be less at risk. The problem is that they can transmit the virus to others. What’s more, young people turn out to be less invulnerable than often thought.
The National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) hasn’t issued any special corona recommendations for student houses, but students should remain aware of the impact of their activities. So call off any meetings you planned to hold in your house, birthday parties, etc.
“They shouldn’t stay in the common area with too many people at one time,” says RIVM spokesperson Coen Berends. “And no physical contact – insofar as this can be enforced. Everyone needs to pay a lot of attention to their own personal hygiene.”
Maybe give the kitchen an extra clean? “That generally doesn’t hurt in student houses,” says Berends, “but what’s more important is consistently washing your hands and not drinking from the same cup.”
Use your head, in other words. For example, a previous recommendation issued by RIVM was to cancel any gatherings of over 100 people. “But of course, standing shoulder to shoulder with 50 people in a small bar is hardly a good idea either.”
The bars are all closed by now, but the country hasn’t gone into lockdown yet. And the shops are still open too. “We’re not saying that everyone should go into quarantine,” says Berends.
Still, everyone knows why students aren’t allowed to walk around campus for the time being. At which point it shouldn’t be hard to decide what is and isn’t sensible behaviour.
So is this period of ‘social distancing’ a good opportunity to pay an extended visit to your parents? That depends – on their health and age, and the situation in your student house. Hanging out with your boyfriend or girlfriend? Preferably not. But if you really feel the need, it’s best that you stay at her or his place for the next few weeks.