‘It felt like, either I am the stupid one, or everyone else is’: international students feel unsafe with the lenient Dutch Coronavirus rules

Photograph: CDC on Unsplash

Many international students are not satisfied with the Dutch Corona rules and say that they feel unsafe. A survey conducted by this newspaper among 76 internationals indicates that up to 80% of students think that the measures are not sufficient.

In the last days the rate of new infections in the Netherlands has climbed above 1000 again, which had last been seen in March and April, during the first wave peak. This is according to numbers provided by the health authorities. The number of severe cases and deaths however remain low. International students blame the loose measures for the increase in cases. “I’ll get corona if these measures continue. People do nothing to prevent the spread,” says an anonymous comment on a survey we conducted in Facebook groups for international students in The Hague and Groningen.

At the time of writing, the measures encourage people to keep 1,5 meters distance and mandates masks in public transport. In comparison, measure in neighbouring countries are much stricter. In Germany it is mandatory to wear a mask in every shop and even in restaurants when you are not sitting on your place. Non-compliance is fined.

Among the 76 respondents, 72% said that they feel unsafe or very unsafe with the current measures and how they are implemented. 80% said that the measures are not sufficient in their opinion. That is not surprising, given that 88% of people said that in their home countries, measures are more or much more strict. “When I arrived here it felt like Corona never even existed”, says Cecilia Martins a Bachelor student in The Hague “For me, it was a bit of a shock, coming from Brazil.”

While some want to keep stricter personal rules, they feel strange doing so. “People looked at me as if something was wrong with me, It felt like, either I am the stupid one, or everyone else is,” says Thomas, a master student in The Hague, about his experience in supermarkets when he arrived from Germany. There, everyone has to wear masks inside of stores contrary to the rules in the Netherlands. Teja Dobnik, a Slovenian Master student in Groningen says she “felt that it is not necessary because the other people are not doing it either.”

One of the main problems is that the rules are nor treated as laws but as advice. Which is “being used as a loophole,” says Thomas Gevers. “It results in people saying that it is not a rule but an advice, so we can hold a house party anyways,” he says “I witnessed that multiple times”.

However, not all students agree, some are happy with the approach of the Dutch government. Marina Obregón Gómez, a Spanish Bachelor student in The Hague, says that the rules “have been since the beginning, not relaxed, but realistic is the word to describe it.” She likes that “it allows people to make their own choices and have their own responsibility.”

One comment on the survey says “I find it unnecessary and exaggerated that most of the University courses are being held online, while daily life, businesses and also nightlife is still taking place under adequate restrictions.”

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