Three Flemish universities have chosen to begin the new academic year with stricter coronavirus measures than the ones recommended by the government.
While universities across the country are sticking to the recommended code yellow to launch the new academic year, the University of Ghent (UGent), the University of Antwerp (UAntwerpen) and the University of Hasselt (UHasselt) have decided to begin on code orange.
Code orange means that the universities will only be able to fill up lecture halls and classrooms up to a fifth of their capacity, compared to half under code yellow, and the use of face masks is also mandatory, according to De Morgen.
The three universities said that the decision was taken in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus at a time when figures across the country continue to rise.
UAntwerpen said that kicking off the year under code orange meant fewer students would be moving around to attend classes and, in that way, the university could limit its chances of driving infection rates upwards.
“This substantially reduces the circulation of young people in the city — after all, UAntwerpen accounts for 22,000 of the 50,000 higher education students [in Antwerp],” the university said in a statement.
The university also said that their decision aimed to support secondary education institutions from “having to compromise further,” since the tightening of measures in schools is related to the circulation of the virus in a given municipality, rather than in the school itself.
Universities in Wallonia are already one week into the start of the new school year but Flemish universities will start activities next week following a summer which saw the virus strike back with force particularly in the province of Antwerp, where authorities ended up imposing a curfew to beat back the flare-up.
UGent is set to remain under code orange for four weeks and then reevaluate while the UHasselt has said that it will stick to code orange for the entire semester.