COVID-19 - An Urgent Appeal to Dutch Universities

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The World Health Organization has declared that the outbreak of the new Coronavirus is a Pandemic. Its rate of contamination, from person to person, is estimated to be between 1.4 and 3.8. Therefore, the COVID-19 is a virus that spreads at a extremely high rate, not only through direct personal contact but also by touching objects. Unlike SARS, which was transmitted only in the most evident clinical phase, the threat of COVID-19 is the fact that it is transmitted by asymptomatic patients. Extensive scientific research states that the more contaminations there are, the more the epidemiological curve grows exponentially. At a certain point, extreme measures would no longer serve any purpose. We need to take action ahead of time. It is of the most extreme necessity to take strict preventive measures before the virus spreads further, as we are presented with two clear problems. First, the significantly high mortality rate compared to a common flu; Second: the risk of no longer being able to treat patients in intensive therapy rooms. The intensive care units are not only necessary for hospitalizing  severely ill Coronavirus patients, who might need up to a month of stay in those same structures, but also for people with other illnesses. If the infection rate is not contained, there simply will no longer be space in the Intensive Care Units. There are 11.5 intensive care hospital beds per 100 thousand people in the Netherlands. Not to mention that there would be a shortage of doctors and nurses as they are the first to be infected. We must prevent it now and immediately.

The decision of many universities in the Netherlands not to take any reasonable measure, such as quarantine or suspending classes, after some professors have been found positive to the virus, neglects any medical and scientific protocol and recommendation. Only at The Hague University of Applied Sciences, we are more than 25 thousand students. The complete disregard for prevention opposes any measure taken worldwide by the countries most affected by the virus. All the statistical forecasts show that if no drastic measures are immediately taken in the Netherlands, within 10 to 14 days the situation will become as dramatic as the one in Italy. We must look at what is happening to the academic world of the countries who are suffering the most. Not to mention that, for the Dutch economy, it would be much more beneficial to prevent the spread of the virus rather than cure it and act when it will be too late. Additionally, we have the duty to pay due respect to those individuals who, if exposed to the virus, are most at risk. 
Therefore, to protect our health and public safety according to the principles of the constitution of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the European Union treaties and the International Conventions, with this petition us students ask:

1. The immediate suspension of educational activities that require a physical presence, and
2. To establish online lectures, as technology fortunately allows us to. 
3. That you consider an alternative way of taking exams, that must be written in hygienic - sanitary safety. 
4. The imposition, for those individuals who recently returned from at-risk zones, and for those who have been in direct contact with positive cases of COVID, to stay in quarantine for at least 14 days - as recommended by the World Health Organization.
5. Allow those who are unable or unwilling to return from the at-risk zones, to follow the lectures and take exams in an alternative manner. 
6. To pay more attention to the guidelines of the most competent international institution, the World Health Organization, and to study, with attention, the cases of China, Italy, and Iran.
7. To realize that it is more beneficial for the education system to prevent the spread of the virus rather than cure it. 

In Europe we must look and learn from what is happening in Italy: Lombardy is one of the most advanced regions in the western world for its excellent level of health care and the high number of resuscitation rooms, and yet, it is collapsing. Universities are closed environments with a very high risk of infection, and although the young population is statistically the least affected from a mortality point of view, it is still vulnerable to severe pneumonia caused by COVID-19. Many young people present no or very few symptoms and may yet infect other age groups.  

Signed by

A community of Italian students in The Hague who first-hand experiences the effect of the virus through the eyes of their families.