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Organisation, Human resources

Information about coronavirus and student and staff travel – update 28/2

28 February 2020

The first cases of infection with the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 that causes the disease Covid-19) have been reported in the Netherlands. There are two cases, one in Tilburg and one in Diemen. Leiden University follows the recommendations of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment and the information from comparable institutes abroad.

UPDATE 28-2 12:00
This article is updated at 12:00 every day and more frequently if the situation warrants it. The Frequently Asked Questions at the end of this message are revised every day on the basis of the questions that are being asked within the organisation. 

Travel advice for students and staff

In a number of regions in the world governments are taking steps to halt a Covid-19 outbreak. With the number of regions increasing by the day, Leiden University is actively monitoring which regions these are. Although the University’s travel policy for students and staff remains unchanged, it is extra vigilant regarding the current risks.

For students this means the following: as is always the case, you may not travel to an area that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has designated as an orange or red zone in its travel advice. If you are already in an orange or red zone, consult your University contact person on how to return safely. If you were planning to travel to a green or yellow zone, but discover that coronavirus has been confirmed there, you may decide to reconsider your trip.

For staff this means the following: as is always the case, you need permission for a business trip abroad. The travel advice of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs determines which administrative level will authorise the trip. The person who has to assess whether permission will be granted (your supervisor) may deviate from this advice having first sought the advice of the Health, Safety and Environment Department. 

Any student or member of staff who is abroad and requires help will be assisted by the University. How exactly depends on the individual circumstances, but the prime concern is the safety of all.

If you are travelling soon to a region with confirmed coronavirus cases or if you are already there, please take good note of the precautionary measures on this page. If you are returning from such a region, notify your GP by phone if you are running a temperature and your airways are affected (cough or shortness of breath). If you do have these symptoms, you may only have the flu. For detailed advice see the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment website.

Preventive measures

Leiden University advises taking everyday preventive measures to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses (viruses that cause infections on the respiratory tract). These measures are:

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash or disinfect your hands after coughing or sneezing.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser if water and soap are not available.
  • Clean and disinfect regularly touched objects and surfaces.
  • Stay at home when you are sick.

If you have travelled to an area with coronavirus in the last 14 days or you have been in contact with a confirmed Covid-19 patient and you feel unwell and have a fever, cough or breathing problems, the advice is:

  • Stay at home; do not travel if you are ill.
  • Seek medical help. Before going to a doctor’s surgery or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent trip and symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash your hands after coughing or sneezing.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser if water and soap are not available.

For more information see the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment website. 

FAQ

You will find below the answers to the most frequently asked questions concerning the coronavirus outbreak. If your question is not in the list, ask your manager or contact person. If there is reason to add the question to this list, send an email to veiligheidszaken@bb.leidenuniv.nl

What policy is Leiden University following now that cases of infection have been identified in the Netherlands?
The policy is the same as in recent days and weeks. We rely on expert advice from the RIVM (the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment). We are also carefully considering whether travel should take place. All those who return from a trip abroad and do not have any symptoms may come to work as normal. Anyone who feels unwell may remain at home. If you have symptoms (high temperature and breathing difficulties), you should telephone your GP. If you do not have a GP, you should contact the nearest doctor or out-of-hours surgery. 

In the event of emergency in the evening, night or at the weekend:
The Hague – Out-of-hours surgery Hadoks: 070 346 9669
Leiden - Out-of-hours surgery Rijnland: 088 427 47 00

I do not feel reassured. What can I do?
If you are a member of staff, you can discuss your concerns with your supervisor. If you are a researcher or visitor, you should discuss your concerns with your contact person. If you are a student, you should discuss your concerns with your study supervisor or other designated person. If they are unable to allay your concerns, they can get in touch with the contact persons indicated in this article (right-hand column).

Can I travel abroad?
At present there are restrictions for some areas. Always consult the foreign travel advice of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs first. Students may never travel to orange or red zones. Formally speaking, you may travel to green or yellow zones, but you are free to reconsider or postpone your trip. It is not advisable to travel to destinations where the local authorities have placed areas or buildings on lockdown.

My department or institute is considering imposing stricter measures for safety’s sake? Is this necessary?
Leiden University closely follows the advice from the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). If an institute imposes measures other than those advised by the RIVM, this leads to inconsistency. People from other institutes may then wonder if they are properly protected. It is therefore not advisable to impose stricter measures than those advised by the RIVM. If someone decides to self-quarantine after a foreign trip, this will obviously not be prevented.

Should I be worried about coming into contact with students or staff who have recently returned from China of Italy, for instance? Should they be quarantined?
No, there is no need to worry. However, the situation does emphasise the importance of the briefings we give to incoming or returning students and staff, and to international guests. It is important that they know who to notify if they are experiencing the symptoms described above. If there is cause to quarantine people, the government (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), the Public Health Service (GGD) or Safety Region (Veiligheidsregio) will clearly indicate this. 

Can students and staff continue with their travel plans?
Travel to some countries has already been discouraged, and many of the travel recommendations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs  have been modified. Students should discuss with their contact person what the possibilities are. Staff should discuss the possibilities with their supervisor. You can check the travel advice here.

Do students or staff who have recently visited a ‘contaminated area’ have to report somewhere or be tested?
No. People returning from abroad are under no obligation to notify the authorities or be tested, unless they have the symptoms listed above. This changes if someone does have the symptoms indicated above: in that case, he or she should telephone (please note: only telephone) your GP or the out-of-hours surgery.

Can students and staff continue with their travel plans?
People had already been advised not to travel to some countries, and much of the travel advice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been modified. Students should discuss the options with their  contact person, and staff should discuss their options with their manager. Make sure you consult the travel advice of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is only available in Dutch. If you need help with this, please ask your manager or contact person at the University.

Is Leiden University in contact with students who are currently abroad?
Yes, the University is in contact with all of our students who are abroad.

Will the University help students who have to or want to return?
Our international exchange coordinators are in contact with all of our students who are abroad. As is customary when the Ministry’s advice changes, our international exchange coordinators will help our students return to the Netherlands as soon and as safely as possible. The University will cover any additional expenses.

How is the University following the latest developments?
We monitor the websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). Our own Health, Safety and Environment Office also closely follows national and international developments and is in contact with the Public Health Service (GGD) or Safety Region (Veiligheidsregio). 

Travel advice

If you are travelling abroad, you will find the latest travel advice on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. General rules and regulations for business trips can be found under the Terms of Employment. All safety and health advice for students can be found under Studying Abroad.

In the event of an emergency, students and staff can call +31 71 527 6666 (operated 24/7). 

Faculty coordinators and managers can consult Leo Harskamp (1191) or Jaap van Zaanen (3802) for questions or advice, or send an email to veiligheidszaken@bb.leidenuniv.nl

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