Groningen ready for 900 students returning from northern Italy

The Groningen department of health service GGD is ready to receive the 900 members of student association Vindicat, who will be returning from their skiing holiday in northern Italy early on Saturday. The students will be returning by bus. At a special location set up by the GGD, they will be checked over and tested for coronavirus Covid-19, if necessary, AD reports.

Fifteen Dutch tourists who were quarantined in a hotel on Tenerife since last week Tuesday, landed in Belgium overnight, according to NU.nl. They are on their way back to the Netherlands by bus. The GGD will make contact with them when they arrive.

The 21 buses carrying Vindicat members will leave Sestrière on Friday afternoon. Students showing symptoms that may indicate the coronavirus, will stay behind in Italy. Students who start displaying symptoms en route, will immediately be isolated when they are back in the Netherlands.

GGD Groningen told AD that it has been in good contact with Vindicat over the past days. According to the service, there is no reason to assume that the students are infected. There are currently a few thousand Dutch people in northern Italy. It is just because the students are returning 900 at once that the GGD is taking extra measures, public health director Jos Rietveld said to the newspaper.  The students are in two hotels and have very little contact with locals. They are also at the very tip of northern Italy - the nearest source of infection is over 200 kilometers away from the ski area, he said. 

The students were initially scheduled to return to the Netherlands on Sunday, but Vindicat rector Floris Hamann decided to cut the trip short by a day. "In the run-up to and during the trip, we had daily contact with the GGD, RIVM and mayor Koen Schuiling. Although they did not advise us to return earlier, I have decided to do so This feels like the right decision."

When the students left for their skiing trip, the travel advice for northern Italy was not yet negative. But the region was already designated a "risk area" due to a number of Covid-19 infections. On Tuesday the Ministry of Foreign Affairs escalated the warning for the area to code orange, advising travelers to stay away unless absolutely necessary.

On Thursday, the number of confirmed Covid-19 infections in the Netherlands jumped from 38 to 82. Of the patients, 69 contracted the virus abroad or had contact with someone who did. For the rest, the source of infection is unclear.

According to Minister Bruno Bruins for Medical Care, the jump in infections is a "catch-up" because people are more aware of the virus and therefore more willing to go to a doctor with flu-like symptoms they would otherwise have treated at home. He called it a "sharp rise", but one the health authorities took into account would happen. 

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