Higher education reopening too soon; more time for vaccination needed, says GGD health service
Universities, colleges and advanced vocational schools are reopening too soon. and that could lead to an increase in the number of coronavirus infections, said GGD GHOR Nederland on Friday. The umbrella organization of all regional health services made the statement even before a press conference announcing the changes had ended.
The GGDs preferred to delay the more complete reopening of the institutions until September 19. "Only then will everyone have had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated, including the two-week period of immunity build-up," according to GGD GHOR Nederland.
About 1.8 million people in the Netherlands have not yet been vaccinated against Covid-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. "In addition, vacationers are returning at the end of August who can also bring infections with them. The risk of outbreaks within education is real, and these outbreaks can then also lead to the risk of infections outside education," the GGD umbrella organization added.
During the press conference, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge acknowledged that thousands more could be hospitalized for Covid-19 as a result of unvaccinated people becoming infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Specifically, between 16 and 22 thousand people could become ill enough that they require hospital care. About 3,400 of them could need help from an intensive care unit.
“The healthcare system cannot handle it if we have to deal with that in a short time. So we still have to convince these people of the need for vaccination," he stated. Roughly 64 percent of Netherlands residents born between 1996 and 2003 were at least partially vaccinated against Covid-19 as of Sunday.
Higher education will be allowed to abandon social distancing rules starting August 30. But the Outbreak Management Team told the government it would only be safe to begin abandoning restrictions from September 20.
The GGDs are also afraid that letting go of the 1.5 meter rule in higher education could lead to people in the rest of society no longer keeping their distance from each other. "We still have the experience of the too-rapid relaxation at the end of June in our minds," says GGD GHOR chairman André Rouvoet.
The government is mandating that higher education limit in-person class size to 75 people, and continue the use of face masks and one-way walking routes. At the same time, the organization representing applied sciences universities and student union LSVb were critical that any limit on lecture size will be implemented.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times.