By Nathaniel Nichol
Although the overall Covid-19 caseload in the Netherlands is still relatively low on a population-adjusted basis, the virus is still here (WHO Data, RIVM). The current evidence indicates minimizing close personal contact is one of the most effective ways of stopping the spread of Covid-19 (CDC). In light of this, it is concerning to see how many students continue to return home on a regular basis to visit family and friends. To be blunt, this is most often Belgian, German, and Dutch students.
These trips increase the likelihood of students being exposed to Covid-19 either while traveling, or just being in their familial household. This holds regardless of whether students travel by public transportation, bike, or private vehicle. This is not a question of negligence, but rather of simple logic – the more people someone interacts within close contact, the higher their risk of exposure. When at home, they spend time in close contact with others and so risk bringing the virus with them when they return to Middelburg. In other words, they are crossing between different germ bubbles, defeating the whole point of social distancing. This has potentially disastrous and disruptive consequences for UCR and the Middelburg community. Nobody wants to go back to fully online classes or risk spreading this virus to their housemates or professors.
Individual community members, therefore, have a moral obligation to make smaller, individual sacrifices so that the community can continue to live without widespread restrictions. We cannot avoid the risk entirely – banning students from visiting their families is not possible or desirable. But we can practice solid risk prevention. The insurance giant Sedgewick describes risk prevention as “[aiming] to reduce the frequency or likelihood of [an] event or loss” (Sedgewick). One of the simplest ways to do this, beyond the measures we are already taking, is to ask students to minimize their visits with family. As international students will know, alternatives exist and your family will not forget about you, even if they do not see you for a few months. In this light, it does not seem unreasonable to propose limiting visits to once every three months. While this cannot be mandated, it should become the new social norm. In doing so we can better protect our community, each other, and minimize the burden on medical personnel and contact tracers should an outbreak occur.
WHO Data: https://covid19.who.int/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIk5bosdTj6wIVBAB7Ch2ecg8DEAAYASAAEgJmj_D_BwE
Image Source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/f378ba51-d009-41f5-b001-a8cbab73034a