26 January, 2021
Message addressed to ULiège' community.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
After a chaotic first term and a hard to manage, initially controversial, but finally successful examination session, we are facing a lot of uncertainty for the coming months. The epidemic control measures have not been relaxed and we are thus beginning the second quadrimester, teleworking whenever possible, and with distance learning the default, except for practical work and laboratories for which an on-site presence is unavoidable.
Our saliva sampling screening tests will resume no later than February 8th and we will thus be active players in the monitoring and control of the pandemic. This is one of the items that allow us to contemplate the possibility of resuming our activities, particularly teaching, in closer to normal conditions in the not-too-distant future. This is the hope I have conveyed to our students in the message copied below.
I would like to thank all of you for, in spite of weariness and the problems faced, making it possible for our University to carry on its activities, preserving the essential, and often going far beyond that.
The exam session is coming to an end and classes will resume, for some Faculties on Monday February 1st, for others on February 8th. At its last meeting on January 22nd, the government coordinating committee made no change to the pandemic control measures in force; our teaching will therefore have to resume according to the rules applied since the end of October. As a reminder, these require that courses be all organized remotely, except for practical work and laboratories for which an on-site presence is essential.
The University will remain open. Libraries and student workrooms will remain accessible in compliance with safety rules: wearing a mask and a distance of 1.5m. A “take away” service from our restaurants will be available at the Sart-Tilman (B8 and VT).
Almost entirely remote teaching and the resulting lack of contacts is very difficult to live with, and our strong wish is to resume a significant amount of face-to-face learning before too much of the quadrimester has gone by. The mail hurdle is of course the still worrisome epidemiological situation. That vaccinations have started brings hope; the more contagious and perhaps more dangerous new variants of SARS-COV-2 bring doubt. Uncertainty is very high.
However, the University is not and will not be a passive observer of how the situation evolves. It has actively joined the many calls for higher education to be considered a priority when planning deconfinement. In a joint press release, the Rectors of French-speaking universities put forward the date of March 1st as the plausible start of a first phase of return to our campuses, provided of course the epidemiological situation evolves positively. And, with respect to the latter condition, we will also be actors.
Our weekly saliva sampling screening tests will resume no later than February 8th for all students and staff members who will be present on our premises. Simultaneously, these tests and other gauges will be used for the epidemiological monitoring of a large sample of students and staff. We will thus have a valuable tool for monitoring the epidemic in the University, for feeding data to predictive models, and for triggering preventive measures when needed.
Let us not forget that, regardless of the virus’s variant, preventing infections is key for controlling the epidemic. Vaccination does this through immunity, barrier gestures by a physical obstacle to the spread of the virus, regular massive testing by the early and appropriate isolation of infected people. This mix of means offers hope of a rapid general change for the better, knowing that our University is tirelessly working to promote the much wider use of massive tests of which we were early developers.
Covid-19 has made us use to very rapid switchovers. That the current fragile stability be followed by a receding tide is a real possibility. We can all contribute to make this happen, and hence resume the contacts and activities that bring meaning to our lives. This is what I wish you to live, come Spring.
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