Eurekaweek attendees can use the CoronaCheck app to demonstrate that they are fully vaccinated or have recovered from the coronavirus in the last six months. However, many international students, including Micha Drielinger (master student Healthcare Management), will not be able to use this option. Micha was vaccinated outside the EU and has a document stating all the relevant information. “On 4 August the Eurekaweek committee sent an email saying that my proof of vaccination will not be accepted at the events, and that I will either have to undergo testing every day or must have my proof of vaccination converted into a digital certificate in the CoronaCheck app.”
Converting is complicated
However, Micha found out that converting the vaccination proof into a digital certificate is rather complicated. It requires a face-to-face meeting with the GGD (regional public health service) in Utrecht, but to schedule that appointment, one must have a DigiD (Dutch digital passport) and BSN (Dutch social security number). International students are not issued with these until they have officially registered with the municipal authorities. A quick check learns that the first possibility to register in Rotterdam is on 13 September.
Hoping to be able to get the digital vaccination certificate in time, Micha called the municipal government. “It so happened that they had one slot for an appointment available on Wednesday, when I was finally allowed to stop self-isolating. So I took the tram to the city hall, thinking I might be able to get what I needed, only for the clerk to tell me that I would receive my social security number in the mail in two weeks. When he saw the surprised expression on my face, he said I was lucky that this was a ‘quiet period’, because it generally takes longer than that.”
Testing in time
In other words, Micha has no choice but to undergo testing every day. When she realised this, she immediately scheduled some tests, based on the event start times announced by the Eurekaweek organising committee. “If an event starts at 10.30, you should take the test at 8 or 8.15, so that you will get your results in time.”
A new problem soon presented itself, though. That same evening, the Eurekaweek organising committee sent an email stating that on Day 1, participants would not be registered at 10.30, as previously announced, but rather ‘at a specific time between 8.30 and 10’. Due to ‘technical issues’, this specific time would not be announced until ‘later this week’. “So I immediately sent them an email saying that I probably wouldn’t be able to make this specific, as-yet-unknown time,” Micha says laughing.
Uncertainty about many things
The Utrecht branch of the GGD, where foreign proof of vaccination is converted into a digital certificate in the CoronaCheck app, responds that foreign proof of vaccination should be accepted by event organisers if all the relevant information is legible. The Rotterdam branch of the GGD says it has nothing to do with the entry requirements for events and referred to the Eurekaweek and to the CoronaCheck helpdesk for more information on how to convert foreign proof of vaccination.
For its part, the helpdesk points to the Eurekaweek as well, which says it iss bound by the rules imposed by the government. “We are required to comply with the policies imposed by the government, which is why we use the CoronaCheck app to check whether students are to be granted access to the events. These rules have been in place for weeks now,” the organising committee said on the phone.
However, the event admission requirements were not emailed to students until 5 August, five days after the participation cancellation deadline. EUR’s International Office also seemed surprised by this issue, but for the time being has no other suggestion than that students from outside the EU undergo testing every day.
The fact that it takes international students so long to get a social security number also has other consequences, one of them being their inability to open a bank account in the Netherlands. “So if they don’t have a bank account, they can’t get a phone plan or debit card, or hire a Swapfiets bike, or make online payments. They always have to pay cash, even though many places now refuse to accept cash, and it’s simply less safe to use cash, as well,” says Micha.
And on top of that, the issue is confounded by unclear and late communications by the Eurekaweek. “If we’d known earlier what the admission procedure would be like and if the locations had been announced sooner, it might have been easier to schedule things. Thankfully, I’m enthusiastic enough about the Eurekaweek and my new programme that I can overlook these disappointments!”