COVID-19 measures at Belgian universities: How does Thomas More apply them?

School’s back in session for about five weeks now, which means universities have implemented coronavirus measures across Belgium. But during these hectic Covid-19 times what on earth are the regulations at the campuses of Thomas More University of Applied Sciences exactly? We talked to prevention advisor Marjolijn Empsten, whose job it is to guarantee our safety, and came up with three really important changes to remember.

1. What if I or a roomie gets sick?
There have been posters up all over campus detailing some of the measures students have to take, like washing your hands, wearing your masks the moment you are on campus, and keeping a 1,5-meter distance. And the students of the province of Antwerp are even required to wear a face mask within a radius of 200 meters from their campus. You, of course, also need to stay home when you’re feeling sick.

However, what some students may not know is that when one of your housemates is sick, you must stay home too. But how exactly does that work because you won’t have a doctor’s note then, right? Empsten explains, ‘As soon as your housemate is sick, you have to go into quarantine, and you can get a note from your doctor. Of course, if you know without a doubt that you are not infected then, of course, you can come to class. But that’s a really tough decision.’

2. Don’t forget to register:
Each course had a say in which classes they wanted to teach online and which classes they wanted to teach in person. As a result, a lot of students ended up with online classes. However, students have been forced to follow their online classes at school due to an in-person class starting right after or vice versa. To accommodate those students, Thomas More set up classrooms all over the campus but one important thing to note is that you need to register for a seat in those classrooms.

You might not feel like signing up and just plopping down on an empty seat in the cafeteria but according to Empsten, it’s pretty important to sign up: ‘Students need to use those classrooms so that when someone is infected we know who was in a room with them. If students sit in random classrooms or in the cafeteria then we don’t have a view on who breathed in each other’s air, which makes the follow up on a possible infection way harder.’

3. What about the food?
Cafeterias can get pretty crowded especially once it gets colder and Thomas More is aware of that. That’s why there are several classrooms where you’re allowed to eat. The auditoriums, practice rooms, and radio studio are off-limits and have a poster out front stating that you can’t eat or drink in there. However, the regular classrooms can be used to eat your lunch. Just remember to wipe down your tables with the wipes and disinfectants found on the wall or (often) behind the door before and after using it.

For the students at campus De Kruidtuin and De Ham, there is some bad news. You might have noticed that there is no catering available and unfortunately it doesn’t seem like it’ll be back any time soon. ‘The restaurants are meant to be closed for quite a while on both campuses. Right now, catering is only available on campus De Vest so that there is a minimal offer of food for students.’ But hey at least we’ve got the vending machines, so that’s something, right?

What are the regulations on other campuses?
When we asked students from other campuses if they agreed with the taken measures the consensus was that they are necessary. ‘During class, we need to wear a mask even when there are 1,5 meters in between. It’s more difficult to get to know people but I think it’s a great measure because it’s important to minimize the spread of the virus. It’s normal,’ says Cara Van Molle (20) first-year student Teacher of Religious Education and English at Artevelde University of Applied Sciences in Ghent.

Artesis Plantijn University College of Antwerp has taken the same measures; ‘I don’t mind because I don’t know everyone yet, and it’s my own responsibility. I don’t wanna get infected or infect the close bubble that I have. It’s your own responsibility and I don’t have a problem with sticking to the rules,’ says Communication Management student Maxim Meyer-Horn (21). For third-year student Architecture at the University of Antwerp Amber Slabbinck (20) it’s a bit more difficult, ‘We used to have two feedback sessions a week but now that’s scaled back to only once a week. It has a big impact on the development process because you can’t talk to your teachers as often.’

For more information, visit the student portal, which is regularly updated, or the coronavirus information page of Thomas More.

Text and photo: © M VL