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Universities not to go back to social distancing inside lecture halls

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The Dutch government has determined that primary schools will close one week earlier for the Christmas holidays, but other educational institutions will stay open. As far as higher education is concerned, nothing is going to change for the time being.

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The government announced that university students are supposed to keep wearing face masks in the hallways, and lecture rooms should have no more than 75 students gathered at a time. Universities are allowed to increase that number for exams.

There has been a misunderstanding, because on Tuesday evening outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte spoke of a maximum group size of “75 people social distancing in higher education”. Currently, students are not expected to stay 1.5 metres away from each other inside the lecture halls, so that would have been slightly stricter than the rules currently in place.

The government’s website also contained that information, but it was soon corrected. Despite the rapid advance of the omicron variant, about which the Dutch government is extremely concerned, students do not have to socially distance or wear a face mask inside the lecture halls. 

Christmas time
The current coronavirus measures, such as the evening lockdown from 5:00 pm, are being extended until January 14 and even stricter rules might yet be introduced. “We know this isn’t the message you were hoping to hear at Christmas time”, said Rutte. “So yes, it’s a blow.”

The Prime Minister also announced the government's intention to speed up the booster jabs: everyone aged 18 and over will get an invitation no later than the second half of January.

The basic rules still apply: keep a distance of one and a half metres (six feet), wash your hands regularly, work from home if possible, receive no more than four visitors a day, take self-tests regularly, and stay at home if you have Covid-related symptoms.

New Minister of Education, Culture and Science?
This was possibly Hugo de Jonge’s last press conference as Minister of Health. A rumour is going around that he's been offered the position of Minister of Education in the new cabinet.

De Jonge has worked at the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science in the past. He was a political assistant to two previous ministers. In Rotterdam, he served as alderman for both Health and Education. Last but not least, he used to be a primary school teacher.

At the press conference, Rutte and De Jonge only addressed Covid-19. They brushed aside all questions about the next government.

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