KU Leuven and VUB switch to code orange

Summary

The two universities join those of Ghent, Antwerp and Hasselt in restricting numbers in lecture halls, with a warning of stricter measures to follow if Covid-19 infections continue to rise

New test centre to open

KU Leuven and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) are moving from code yellow to code orange coronavirus plans, as the infection rises across the country. Flanders’ other universities, in Ghent, Antwerp and Hasselt, all began the academic year in code orange last month.

The new restrictions, which limit the number of students and professors allowed on campus, come into effect on Monday. Lecture theatres with more than 150 seats may only be up to 20% full. Smaller halls with 60 to 150 seats may only accommodate 30 students at one time, to allow sufficient distancing. For labs, PC rooms and certain other practical study settings, existing safety measures will not change for the time being.

The two universities began the academic year with less tight restrictions than other institutions, with the aim of allowing new students some experience of university life and offer them support at the beginning of their student career. VUB is also warning that it may move to code red from 26 October, pending further decisions to be made by the government. Under code red, all lectures, seminars and other group lessons must be given via distance learning. Practical and lab work is still allowed, provided all participants wear a mask.

Difficult to avoid

“In the current situation of rapidly increasing infections and hospital admissions, particularly in Brussels, we must further reduce the number of students and staff present on our campuses,” a VUB spokesperson said. “We hope that code red can still be avoided but understand that it might be difficult to avoid this in Brussels.”

KU Leuven is also taking a number of extra measures to ensure safety on campus, including opening its own test centre on Monday. Students who meet certain criteria will be able to take a test free of charge by appointment. The aim is to test up to 300 people each day.

“Thanks to this extra testing capacity, we will be able to intervene more quickly and prevent further infection,” said KU Leuven rector Luc Sels. “Additionally, we continue to closely monitor that everyone strictly complies with safety regulations. I would like to stress once again that the vast majority of students is closely adhering to the measures, and I’m very grateful for that. Unfortunately, a small minority is not doing so. If we find serious cases of misconduct on campus, we will take firm action, in the interest of everyone's health and safety.”

Photo: KU Leuven/Rob Stevens