Coronavirus (COVID-19): safety measures

The university is adopting a series of measures against COVID-19. A coordination unit has been established to anticipate, monitor and manage health and academic issues. This page lists and updates university actions.

3 April 2020: message of support and thanks from the rector to students and staff during the spring break.

27 March 2020 : extension of measures and adhering to the academic calendar

University authorities issued a statement to the university community shortly after the announcement of new government measures. For UCLouvain, some measures already in place are being extended. The following is a brief summary measures now in force:

Until at least 19 April:

  • All university buildings (including auditoriums, offices, laboratories, libraries, computer labs, meeting rooms) are closed to all but a minimum of service personnel.
  • Telework is mandatory for all except those providing the minimum service.
  • Research, research support, development and service activities that cannot be carried out remotely are suspended.

Until at least 16 May:

  • Courses either continue exclusively online or are postponed or cancelled.
  • Extracurricular in-person student activities are prohibited.   
  • Events organised by UCLouvain or on the premises of UCLouvain are prohibited.
  • Travel for professional or study purposes and receiving guests from abroad are prohibited.

'The university's aim is to maintain the rhythm of the academic year, including in the lead-up to exams from 17 May to 1 June and the examination session from 2 to 27 June', Rector Vincent Blondel and Director General Dominique Operfergelt elaborated in their statement. 'We are currently examining possible approaches to holding exams. We know this is of utmost concern to all of you and we will inform you as soon as possible of the options we choose, which will depend on the health situation.'

23 March 2020: distance learning prolonged until the end of the term

Following consultation between the rectors of Belgium's French-speaking universities, the decision was taken today to prolong distance learning until the end of the term, i.e. up to and including 16 May. The rectors' motivation is to avoid prolonging the academic year and postponing educational activities to next academic year. They are aware that this measure exerts an enormous impact on certain forms of teaching that are difficult to adapt online, as is the case for some practical work and internships.

No decision has yet been taken at UCLouvain concerning the June examination session. However, the university wants to anticipate the possibility that some travel and gathering restrictions could still be in place between now and the examination session as well as during the examination session. UCLouvain has therefore taken the decision to prepare, as of now, for all possible scenarios, in order to offer the most appropriate educational, technological, and logistical stratgies for dealing with the health situation in Belgium beyong April.

17 March 2020: UCLouvain closes access to buildings

In accordance with the Belgian government's announcement on Tuesday 17 March at 8:30 pm, new limits on travel will enter into force on Wednesday 18 March at noon.

Consequently, the Rectoral Council has decided to close access to all UCLouvain buildings (auditoriums, offices, laboratories, libraries, computer labs, meeting rooms) from Wednesday 18 March at noon. Only minimal service will be maintained, in accordance with arrangements that will be announced Wednesday 18 March. This new measure will be applied until 5 April 2020.

The university will continue distance learning and teleworking activities.

The Student Support Service, like most other university departments, will be accessible by email and/or videoconference. Students who do not have Internet access at home can contact the Help Desk on Wednesday 18 March (via aide-sante@uclouvain.be) to consider distance learning options. Computer labs will remain open on until noon on Wednesday 18 March.

Arrangements will also be made for people who are unable to carry out their activities through telework. These arrangements will be communicated on Wednesday 18 March.

The document 'Current Overall Measures' accessible via this website will be updated on Wednesday 18 March in order to specify the new practical arrangements in greater detail. The university community will be notified when the updated document is available.

The university reminds all members of the university community of the crucial importance of social distancing outside academic buildings, especially on and surrounding campuses. These social distancing measures are crucial to curbing the spread of the coronavirus. 'It is everyone's responsibility to protect the health of all, especially the most vulnerable.'

13 March 2020: Distance lessons and suspension of research activities

Further to our communication on 12 March and the measures announced by th, e federal government the same day at 10:20 p.m., the Rector's Council made the following decisions:

> As of Monday, March 16, all face-to-face teaching activities will be switched to remote mode, or postponed or cancelled. The modalities chosen for distance education will be communicated by the course holders.

> Teleworking should be extended wherever possible throughout the university.

> Research activities that cannot be carried out remotely must be suspended.

These measures are valid until 19 April 2020 inclusive.

The practical details of the implementation are detailed in the document "Coronavirus - Measures in force within UCLouvain"

These measures are subject to change. We will keep you informed of these developments.

12 March 2020: Teaching activities suspended for this Friday, March 13. Distance lessons begin on Monday, 16

UCLouvain has taken a series of new measures to limit the spread of the Coronavirus.

> All teaching activities scheduled for this Friday, March 13 and Saturday, March 14 are suspended.

> As of Monday, March 16, all face-to-face teaching activities will be switched to remote mode, postponed or cancelled. This measure is valid until April 19, 2020 inclusive.

> This applies to all teaching activities, including lectures, practical work, seminars and evaluations. Distance learning activities will replace face-to-face teaching activities.

> UCLouvain is not closing its doors but is taking steps to de-densify its campuses. Students who have the opportunity to do so are strongly advised to return home.

> UCLouvain's libraries, canteens and computer rooms remain open until further notice but restrictions will be applied as to the number of people who can be present at the same time in order to guarantee the recommended physical distance between people.

12 march 2020: Extra-academic activities cancelled

For students at UCLouvain, from 12 March 2020, the following measures concern all the sites of UCLouvain:

> The student event areas managed by student associations remain closed night and day until at least 19 April. This means that all activities in these areas are cancelled.

> Extra-academic activities taking place in UCLouvain buildings (conferences, course dinners, recruitment dinners, meetings, rehearsals, etc.) are cancelled until at least 19 April.

> Extra-academic activities organized by student associations outside UCLouvain buildings, whether it's on land owned by the university or not, are also cancelled until at least 19 April.

> Extra-academic student sports activities, organized by the Sports Service, sports kots or other entities, are cancelled until further notice. This does not, of course, apply to individual physical activities carried out privately and in the open air. These are even recommended for your mental and physical well-being.

> UCLouvain strongly encourage student associations to refrain from any events involving students and/or members of the university community organized outside the UCLouvain sites.

11 March 2020: Preparing for distance learning and telework

To limit the spread of the virus, UCLouvain decided to reinforce the precautionary measures applicable to students and university staff (valid until 19 April 2020 at the earliest).

> Concerning travel abroad, study trips organised by UCLouvain faculties must be postponed or cancelled. All professional travel abroad by staff members is prohibited, unless there are compelling reasons. All scheduled Erasmus/Fame-Mercator student mobility departures before 19 April 2020 must be postponed or cancelled.

> Receiving international visitors before 19 April 2020 is not recommended. If such travel is essential, reception is subject to conditions (authorisation to travel by institution of origin; travellers must be made aware of the degree of spread in Belgium and agree to assume contamination risks; absence of symptoms at time of departure, etc.). The community is called upon to ensure that incoming mobility students or international visitors who are already at UCLouvain have all institutional precautionary information and know how to access care in Belgium, if necessary.

> Staff working conditions will also be adapted. Arrangements to maintain a physical distance of one meter between individuals are encouraged. Vulnerable, symptomatic, and quarantined individuals, as well as those who have worked closely with infected persons should contact their supervisor regarding telework possibilities.

> Adaptation of teaching methods: professors are encouraged to familiarise themselves with distance learning options. From now on, professors can take the initiative to teach lessons remotely.

> Non-essential meetings should be avoided as much as possible and replaced by telephone calls or collaborative IT tools such as the UCLouvain Teams platform. If in-person meetings are unavoidable, limit their duration, allow virtual participation, and/or use larger premises in order to maintain sufficient distance between participants.

> Flexible working hours for staff are encouraged, as federal authorities requested in order to avoid overcrowding in public transport during rush hour. Supervisors must determine the degree of flexibility relative to department requirements.

> Any indoor activity organised by a UCLouvain entity that involves 1,000 or more persons must be postponed or cancelled. Postponing or cancelling UCLouvain colloquia, conferences and congresses, regardless of the number of participants, is also recommended.

9 March 2020 : Student events suspended

During the night of Monday to Tuesday, university authorities announced that ‘one confirmed case of infection and one suspected case’ had been reported in the Louvain-la-Neuve student community. In a statement, Vincent Blondel and Dominique Opfergelt emphasised, ‘These two cases are not related to the case identified yesterday. Other cases will probably be detected in the coming days.’

According to the statement, ‘A new preventive measure will apply to UCLouvain beginning Tuesday 10 March: we are suspending all club, association, and kots-à-projet events in student entertainment venues. Because such events draw large numbers of individuals into close physical proximity, they risk spreading the virus. We realise this will cause disappointment, but we hope we can count on your understanding and awareness of the fact that progressively stricter measures must be taken to limit the spread of the virus.’

Still more stringent measures will be announced in the near future, the statement read. ‘We are responding to the confirmed cases with actions (monitoring, professionally cleaning relevant teaching and work places) which we realise are of a targeted, temporary nature. In order to limit the spread of the virus while preserving access to educational and work activities, we will likely have to take additional collective measures that will be implemented incrementally.’

8 March 2020 : First case on the university campus

On Sunday evening, a first case of infection at UCLouvain was reported to the university authorities. It concerns a Faculty of Bioengineering teaching assistant who had been in contact in the context of private life, with persons returning from Italy. The person is in good health and has been in quarantine since the first symptoms appeared.

The university authorities have taken several measures to limit the spread of the virus:

  • Everyone who was in contact with this person is being monitored.
  • The person's teaching and work premises have been identified and, along with other relevant spaces, are being professionally cleaned.
  • Cleaning is a precautionary measure, as studies show that virus survives outside the human body a few hours at most.
  • Classes and scheduled practical work have been relocated until cleaning is complete.

University authorities reiterated hygiene instructions 'which remain the best way to protect oneself', wrote Rector Vincent Blondel and Director General Dominique Opfergelt in their message to the university community on Sunday evening.

Prior to the declaration of this first case, UCLouvain had already taken measures such as creating a coronavirus management unit, providing points of contact to address the university community's questions, and posting hygiene instructions.

5 March 2020 : Extension of the suspension of face-to-face classes to the whole of Italy

Universities all over Italy have now suspended their face-to-face teaching activities. The Faculties of UCLouvain are in contact with our students on site. The same instructions we gave a week ago for Northern Italy prevail: students can return and resume their training activities in Belgium or follow the distance learning courses organized by the Italian universities. For those who wish to stay in Italy, it is important to strictly follow the instructions of the universities and local authorities.

1 March 2020 : Message from the UCLouvain authorities

On Sunday, shortly after the announcement of a second case of Coronavirus (COVID-19), the rector of UCLouvain, Vincent Blondel, and the general administrator, Dominique Opfergelt, sent a message to the university community to recall the measures taken.

They indicated that a Coordination Unit had been set up within the University to ensure permanent monitoring of the situation for weeks. Since January, two email addresses have also been used to answer health questions related to COVID-19.

In addition, to ensure fast and effective communication to the community, a UCLouvain web page (right here) has also been set up with regular updates as the situation evolves.

The authorities pointed out that in recent weeks the University has taken measures with regard to student mobility to certain destinations, in coordination with the Faculties which constitute the point of contact for mobile students. The basic rules on hygiene (see opposite) were also recalled.

The letter is also addressed to those returning from an area with a high spread of the virus or who are in contact with people coming from such an area. "The important thing here, too, is to keep a close eye on the possible appearance of symptoms. It is useless to be tested without symptoms; the Belgian reference centres refuse to carry out the tests in this case. If symptoms do occur, follow the simple rule of staying home and calling a doctor”.

27 February 2020 : Student mobility in Italy

Following the detection of cases of contamination by the Coronavirus (COVID-19), several universities in the North of Italy have temporarily suspended their courses and are gradually setting up alternative training arrangements (e.g. online courses).

Thirty students have an Erasmus mobility stay in the North of Italy this quadrimester (notably in Bologna, Milan, Turin, Siena, Parma, Padua). The Faculties of UCLouvain are in individual contact with their students to see on a case-by-case basis the best options to follow. The Belgian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, to date, does not advise against travelling to Italy. Some students wished to stay in Italy by following the distance learning courses organized by the universities, others postponed their trip, and still others preferred to return to resume classes at UCLouvain.

The University is monitoring the situation in Italy and other countries affected by the COVID-19 virus on a daily basis in order to take appropriate measures.

3 February 2020 : Instructions in case of possible symptoms

Anyone who shows flu-like symptoms and who has either just returned from China or has been in close contact with an infected person is advised to consult a doctor (general practitioner) as soon as possible. To limit the propagation, people with flu symptoms are advised to call the doctor in advance (to avoid waiting in the waiting room) and to cover their nose and mouth with a surgical mask or tissues when in contact with other people. All doctors in Belgium have been informed and will indicate the precise steps to take in case of infection.

If the persons here referred to need help to access a doctor, they can contact:

People who have returned from the city of Wuhan and do not present flu-like symptoms are advised to remain vigilant with regard to the potential development of flu-like symptoms. As soon as the first symptoms appear, they are advised to consult a doctor as indicated above.

The usual measures to prevent the spread of a viral infection must obviously be applied, in particular regular hand washing. The instructions given above are consistent with the current state of affairs and the recommendations of the health authorities. They are subject to modifications/adaptations according to the evolution of the situation. A website with all the latest information on the coronavirus (including answers to frequently asked questions) has been set up by the Belgian Federal Public Service (FPS) for Public Health.

24 January 2020 : Travels to China

Given the uncertain evolution of the health situation in China (Coronavirus) and the current state of information available to UCLouvain, the university wishes to inform the staff and the student community of several provisions:

  1. In order not to jeopardize the success of a semester in uncertain circumstances, steps are being taken to redirect students who had planned to travel to China.
  2. Staff members who intend to travel to China are advised to comply with the recommendations of the the Foreign Affairs services.

Published on February 27, 2020