A Covid-19 testing facility. Photo: Flickr cc The National Guard

More classes on campus? Higher education willing to be living lab for rapid testing


A number of Dutch universities and universities of applied sciences believe that rapid testing and crowd control could provide more leeway for on-campus education during the pandemic.

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Four universities (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Eindhoven University of Technology, Delft University of Technology and the University of Groningen) and the Hanze University of Applied Sciences in Groningen are volunteering their campuses to serve as living labs for various pilot projects, in response to proposals by Dutch political parties D66 and GroenLinks.

Eat, sleep, zoom, repeat
D66 MP Jan Paternotte states: “During the pandemic, the lives of one million students follow almost the exact same pattern every day: eat, sleep, zoom, repeat.” The MP and his colleague from GroenLinks believe that more options may soon be on the horizon.

This is music to the universities’ ears. In Groningen, five thousand students were tested during the exam period in January, with help from the government. Another thousand students and employees could perform a daily COVID-19 self-test “once these tests become available”.

Delft University of Technology is designing sensors to register foot traffic on campus. This system may even be able to predict where crowds will form. Universities will then be able to issue warnings when too many people are congregating in any given location.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Minister of Health Hugo de Jonge informed the country that the spread of the virus is by no means under control. The minister stated that the upcoming holidays should be spent with a very small group of friends or family. The partial lockdown is still in effect.

The government is anxiously awaiting the availability of new vaccines. If everything goes according to plan, the first group of people will be able to receive a shot in January. Unfortunately, there is already one setback: the vaccine shipment will contain fewer doses than expected, as reported by Dutch newspaper Volkskrant.

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