SOME ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS REGARDING THE CURRENT SITUATION
By: From: CU Public Relations Office
We are extremely proud of all of you who have acted very responsibly in this emergency and respected our guidelines and instructions. We would like to thank those who voluntarily left the dormitories and got home safely at the beginning of the week. Not everyone understands the reasons for the precautionary measures introduced by the university, so we have decided to explain them.
WHY ARE THE DORMITORIES A RISKY ENVIRONMENT?
Our two largest residential complexes – Ľudovít Štúr Campus-Mlyny and the Družba dormitory – accommodate almost 9000 people during the year, of which 6500 are at Mlynská dolina. A lot of people are therefore moving around in a relatively small space and these people will encounter others, for instance, on public transport, at the faculties, at workplaces, at sports clubs, and at cinemas and so on. In addition, thanks to the cheap and even free transport opportunities, most students travel home almost every weekend. According to the information available, young people are the least vulnerable group in relation to COVID-19. However, even in young people this virus can have serious consequences. Also, young people can be carriers of the virus and infect their loved ones.
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE FIRST CASE OF INFECTION IS CONFIRMED AT THE DORMITORIES?
In this case we will have to isolate the building where the infected person is located and provide medical care as well as food in an emergency mode. We have discussed the details and rules of quarantine with top epidemiologists and virologists and, to be honest, we could not manage it even with a 25 percent occupancy rate at the dormitories. We lack protective masks, gloves, disinfectant, and protective suits. We are constantly trying to get these things, but there has been an enormous lack of protective equipment for weeks, and the situation is only getting worse. In addition, we are starting to run out of personnel. Many of our employees have had to stay at home with their children or are in quarantine themselves. The medical facilities in Bratislava are already strained. And this is why only students who really have no other choice can stay in the dormitories at the moment. Over the week we have had students ask whether they can come back for the weekend, or that they want to travel abroad and then return to the dormitories. However, it is only by closing the dormitories that we can eliminate the movement of students and the potential spread of infection.
WHY HAVE YOU LET PEOPLE GO HOME NOW GIVEN THAT THEY CAN SPREAD THE VIRUS?
First of all, we do not have the option of keeping students in the dormitories. We worked all weekend to allow students to leave the dormitories before lectures start on Monday and the risk of an outbreak increases. it is unfortunate that some people have travelled back and forth unnecessarily, and we apologize for that, but we still regard it as a success that we have managed to now put these measures in place. We did so at a time when many people were downplaying the risks of the coronavirus and arguing that it was nothing serious. It was not easy to enforce this responsible measure. However, it was better that the students left on Sunday or Monday, and not at the end of the week, after having potentially met hundreds to thousands of other students, many of whom had just returned from risk areas. In any case, we believe that most of you, be it while travelling as well as while at home, behave responsibly and are considerate of your surroundings. Certainly, if you have a reason to think you may have been exposed to the virus (you were in a risk area or in contact with an infected person, or you have symptoms of respiratory illness), please isolate yourself completely for two weeks and avoid close contact with others, including relatives.
WHAT IF I HAVE A JOB?
If quarantine measures were introduced at the dormitories – which could well be just a matter of time – you would not be able to leave your room for at least 14 days.
WHAT DO I NEED TO SAY TO GET AN EXEMPTION?
Please note that an emergency has been declared. Providing false information or misrepresenting your medical history is subject to severe penalties. At the moment, our health is our top priority. Having temporary or permanent work commitments is not currently a reason to receive an exemption.
WILL WE GET OUR MONEY BACK?
At this stage, we cannot predict how this will turn out. Exceptional measures are costly. Even now the university must help the dormitories so that they can purchase the necessary equipment to deal with this situation. Please note that dormitory accommodation is not a commercial service but a social one, and that it is subsidized by the state. Due to the extraordinary measures that have been put in place, it is likely that the dormitories will end up with a high loss this year. However, once everything is over, we will calculate the losses, find out what the situation is, examine the insurance contracts, and look into the possibility of a refund. Please be patient and have some understanding of the situation we are in.
WHAT ONE PERSON SAYS, ANOTHER REFUTES
From the beginning, our entire public relations and information centre teams, as well as the dormitory management, have been working hard to communicate continuously. We respond to all correspondence, including questions from social groups. We have spoken to many people personally and we are addressing your situation. Nevertheless, various incorrect information has been spread. In any case, the most important information is provided by the university itself (on its website, through the information centre contact points and on our Facebook page) or the dormitory management. Every day we are working late into the night just to explain everything to everyone. If you are unsure about something, write to us and we will definitely answer you.
HOW MUCH LONGER WILL THIS SITUATION LAST?
The crisis team at Comenius University will meet next week. It is almost certainly going to extend the suspension of classes. However, no one can tell at this point how long this whole situation will last. Please follow the news and our website.
In any case, we are all in this together. Now we are doing everything we can to avoid an increase in acute cases that would lead to the collapse of urgent healthcare provision. That is the main goal. It is especially important to protect people over sixty, for whom this virus can be lethal. Wash your hands regularly, keep a good standard of hygiene, do not meet in groups, and provide help to the elderly and the sick. Let's take care of each other. And let's continue to study as much as we can. In our circumstances, we are not accustomed to epidemics, but that is why it is important that you as educated people and future professionals help keep things calm. England handled the Blitz during World War II with the slogan "Keep Calm and Carry On". It is said that each generation will experience its serious test. This is a great test for all of us who are of a productive age. It's up to us. Let us demonstrate responsibility and maturity. Look out for each other and stay calm.