Over the past week, WUR spokesman Simon Vink has been continuously fielding questions and dealing with concerns about the coronavirus.
Employees want permission not to come to work because they have asthma or their partner has COPD or a fever. And people want to know why the Radix building on campus is still open when a member of staff was diagnosed with COVID-19 a week ago. Why is WUR not following the example of Unilever and FrieslandCampina in forbidding staff from attending external gatherings or receiving guests?
There are many questions and requests for clarity on how WUR is dealing with the coronavirus epidemic, especially from foreign staff and students. Some Chinese students, for example, want to return to China because they feel the Chinese government is doing a better job of tackling the virus than the Dutch government. Other students are worried they will not be able to do their internship or take an exam because of the coronavirus, getting behind in their studies and incurring extra costs as a result.
Vink repeats that WUR is keeping to the national guidelines set by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). That means anyone who doesn’t feel safe on campus can work at home. Staff and students who feel sick are urgently requested to stay home until they have fully recovered. Staff are also advised not to travel if that is not necessary and to have meetings via Skype where possible.
So far, most internal gatherings such as lectures have continued as normal. Vink says that the Executive Board is considering various scenarios if the virus continues to spread. In the worst case, possible scenarios are stopping all teaching in the large lecture halls on campus, or even closing the campus entirely. Some people are already calling for such drastic measures but the Executive Board — following the advice of RIVM — does not see the added value at present.
Vink advises staff and students to check the guidelines on the WUR website (wur.nl) every day and to follow the advice of RIVM.