Dutch students work hard to keep the virus out of shared homes


Leiden, Netherlands (AP) – This is not the student life Iris Rats expected when she was accepted into Leiden University to study law.

With the coronovirus epidemic casting its long shadow over education in the Netherlands and around the world, most of his lectures are online and lively social life in the country’s oldest university city has been redefined to prevent the spread of the epidemic.

Instead, socialization mainly takes place within the four walls of the house which the 19-year-old shares with about 13 other students at the central railway station in the city.

“I’m so glad that I found … a room in Leiden and I could experience being with the students and having parties in the kitchen here,” she said. “But it’s not like real student life.”

Students’ homes in Dutch university cities are seen as a worrisome source of infection as the Netherlands has undergone a strong resurgence of coronovirus in recent weeks. Infection has increased in people aged 20–30 years.

Dutch education minister Ingrid van Engelsoven told The Associated Press, “If 14 of you live in a shared kitchen, a shared bathroom, it’s very complicated.” “What we see now is that the students are working with each other to make those homes safe.”

This is happening at home in Leiden, where students are almost as tightly packed as communal spaces in the yard as their bicycles are in the rack in the front yard. Residents have created their own rules to keep the virus out, largely distancing themselves from the outside world by strictly limiting visitor numbers.

Students with a cough or runny nose are believed to self-segregate in their rooms, although housewives find it difficult to strictly enforce this rule. At the height of the outbreak earlier this year, residents were allowed just one guest, a rule that allowed partners to travel.

When a room is vacated, meetings between housewives and potential new residents – considered a source of diffusion infections – now occur largely online or in the back garden of the home.

So far, it is working for Iris and her housewives. No one has tested positive for COVID-19, even the Dutch infection is spreading and the government is taking stern steps to curb its spread.

Students sit in and out of the cramped kitchen and sit around a small table covered with newspapers, books, cups and glasses. Iris Cook makes eggs and fiscal law student Gerard Wealthuis makes coffee.

In a hall, at the bottom of a steep flight of stairs, beer boxes are piled up and empty bottles are collected in boxes. A single face mask hangs from a student’s mail collection rack on the wall.

So far, about 100,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Netherlands and about 6,300 have died, although the true toll is higher due to limited testing, missed cases and other factors.

Student accommodation is not the only problem in the Netherlands.

In Britain, outbreaks in universities in cities including Glasgow, Edinburgh and Manchester have seen thousands of students confined to their residence halls. In some schools, security guards prevent young people from leaving their buildings.

The clampdown has angered students and parents, who say the government and universities should have done better preparation with better social preparedness rules and regular virus testing for students.

Restricting students to hostels also does not prevent them from socializing. Police were called to a residence at the University of Edinburgh last week to break up several student parties.

In the United States, dozens of university viruses have emerged as hot spots. Although the students are being housed separately apart from classrooms and dining halls, the virus has continued to spread through dorms and off-campus parties that have been blamed for thousands of cases.

In Leyden, second-year physics student David Hintgen is spending more time in the third floor of the house than living in his bedroom. His days are spent on his laptop at the table next to his bed, although he must occasionally go to the university lab to do experiments.

“Most of our colleges are online through the website, so … everything I do is basically here,” he said. “I sometimes study with friends, but that too through a laptop.”

Not all students in Leiden have been able to resist the temptation for the party. Police intervened earlier this month to stop a late-night gathering of students at a Leiden park where people failed socially.

“It’s not always good,” Van Angelowen said. “He was – and he himself has said it – stupid and irresponsible and we have to make sure we stop it.”

For students, one upside to the restrictions is more time to focus on their education.

“You can’t get out of the party,” Welthuys said. “Usually we used to party together quite a lot in the city but it has all stopped, so it is kind of boring. But you can focus on your studies, so that’s fine. “

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Follow AP’s epidemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak And https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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