And the students on Stationsplein aim to fight that flashpoint. The coronavirus campaign for and by students started this afternoon. Subheading: ‘Cut the bullshit, get tested!’ The number of infections in the Rotterdam region has increased sharply in recent weeks, with the blame partly lying with young people and students. “Since the first new series of infections in Rotterdam we are seeing an alarming increase in the number of contacts that infected students have”, stated the Director of Rotterdam-Rijnmond Public Health Service (GGD) Mariska Baas, who was also present at the launch of the campaign.

What does this alarming increase look like: “We now have 32 infections among students”, stated the GGD Rotterdam-Rijnmond spokesperson on Tuesday evening, “and we are monitoring 234 people.” That is an increase of ten infections compared with last Thursday.

Squad of students adorned in red

A small squad of around fifty students is mobilised, adorned in red T-shirts and arranged at a safe one-and-a half-metre distance from each other, some armed with fishing nets full of leaflets and face masks. It’s a bit awkward as there are hardly any students to be found at the station. But the location was more symbolic. “In the coming week, we will be spread out across the city”, stated organiser Merel van Lunen from the Rotterdamse Kamer van Verenigingen (umbrella body for the five student associations).

Mayor Aboutaleb was also given a T-shirt by organiser Merel van Lunen.

The campaigners listened to Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb, who addressed the crowd via a megaphone. Following last week’s alarming figures, he asked the students to start a campaign. “I’m delighted and proud that you have set this up so quickly.” But he is by no means reassured about the increasing numbers of infections. According to Aboutaleb the current figures are ‘not great’. He has heard that students do not collaborate with the test and trace service, do not answer their telephones, or they agree a story together and don’t tell the truth. “Not wise.”

The Mayor hopes that this campaign will ensure that ‘blunt measures’ can be avoided. For instance, Eurekaweek has still not heard whether it will be granted a permit. “I’ve not yet made a decision about permits. I’ll do that this week.” He cannot say the conditions under which the permit can be granted. “That also depends on the advice given by the GGD.” Mariska Baas (GGD) does say which way things need to go: “The curve needs to be flatter. Students need to answer their telephones and adhere to the measures.” Jelle Mooij, Praeses of SSR-R (student association), also present and holding a fishing net, stated: “We’re hoping and waiting anxiously.”

No response

SSR-R chair Jelle Mooij campaigning outside Rotterdam Central Station to promote corona regulations. Image credit: Marko de Haan

The problem the students are fighting against with this campaign is twofold. First, co-students have a lot of contacts and they do not adhere to the rules and second, they do not collaborate with the test and trace service, as Aboutaleb already outlined. For instance, they don’t answer their telephones because they don’t recognise the number. Criminology student, Amber Krifa (21), also present at the campaign, has noticed that too. She has a part-time job at the GGD. “My colleagues often don’t get a response. Actually, all students should have to put the GGD number in their telephones.”

She is concerned. “The figures are going up. At the start it wasn’t so hard for students to adhere to the rules, but as time went on, some found this increasingly difficult. But the recent increase has shown how vital it is that we adhere to the rules.”

Smart move

Passer-by Gordon Moir (41), who is stretching his legs on Stationsplein during his lunch break, considers it to be ‘a smart move’ by the students. “They’re currently under fire. In this way, they can demonstrate that it’s not that they don’t care – which is the impression that is slowly developing, for me too. And I hope it will also help prevent infections.”

Just last week students took to the streets to raise awareness among their fellow students about the corona regulations and help prevent new infections. Image credit: Marko de Haan