Coronavirus – Recommendations from the UMONS authorities to staff and students

Published on 2 April 2020
Written by DCOM
Latest measures and recommendations adopted by the UMONS authorities: Update 02 april 2020

Update 02 april

Subject: Anonymous questionnaire on the impact on students of the measures adopted to combat COVID-19

Dear students,

Following the exceptional circumstances that we are currently experiencing, all UMONS courses are now taught online.

We are trying to meet your needs as best as possible. To help you in the event of any difficulties caused by this situation, we are asking you to take a short survey, which will help us measure your satisfaction / dissatisfaction.

This survey covers the same themes as those launched by the FEF a while ago, but this time it is intended exclusively for UMONS students.

Since we are constantly striving to improve the University’s educational services, we will get back to you again with a similar questionnaire in the future, so stay tuned!

In your interest and that of UMONS, we therefore strongly encourage you to participate by simply clicking on this link.

Thank you for your cooperation,

The ORE Students’ Union, in collaboration with the University Management Team


Update 31 march

Dear students,

On 12th March, Belgium’s National Security Council decided to move to the federal phase of the risk management plan to limit the spread of COVID-19. On this occasion, the Prime Minister announced that all citizens, private companies (except those carrying out activities essential to the crisis effort) and public institutions, including education, were forced into confinement. This measure was applicable throughout Belgium, from midday on 13th March 2020. At their meeting on 27th March, the National Security Council decided to extend lockdown until at least 19th April.

In addition, the Council of Francophone Rectors decided to prolong online teaching (distance learning) until the end of the semester.

Since the Prime Minister’s initial announcement, the Universities have requested that their students, residing in student accommodation, return home in order to respect federal provisions and, of course, protect their health. It should be noted that the Universities have never ordered students to leave their student accommodation, as we are aware that this may not be feasible for some students. To date, around a hundred students continue to occupy their accommodation, as provided by the University, while ensuring compliance with the conditions of confinement and social distancing. Similarly, student rooms which are currently being rented out remain accessible to the tenants, so as to allow them access to their personal belongings, course notes, etc. which may have remained on site. The same conditions of confinement and social distancing apply.

However, we have received requests regarding the payment of rent for these rooms during this period, the duration of which remains undetermined.

After consultation with all of the Francophone Rectors, and in view of the above, we have decided to maintain the rents for the months of April, May and June, but completely revoke the sum required for utilities as stated in the rental lease. This, therefore, will automatically impact the rental amounts for these months. The rent for the month of March is due in full, as the Prime Minister’s declaration was made late into the month.

It remains to be said that your contract gives you the freedom to terminate your lease, but, if you chose to do so, this must be done in strict compliance with the provisions of the regulations and the signed leases (notice period). Furthermore, during the current confinement period, we will not authorise any move, which would result in the inappropriate mobilisation of our employees, especially those in charge of exit inventories and those responsible for access and security. Students and their parents are also prohibited from performing this type of non-essential task.

We take this opportunity to remind you that our Social Services Unit remains available to students who may, in these circumstances, face particular difficulties. If this applies to you, please contact Mrs. Isabelle Brumagne (isabelle.brumagne@umons.ac.be) whose team will assist you at best.

The University has a specific “social” budget, which makes it possible to help the most disadvantaged students of our Institution. This budget offers discreet but effective initiatives of solidarity for the benefit of those who need it. The revenue from the rent of our student accommodation feeds this social fund, and consequently helps us to solve many difficulties our students face.

UMONS must continue to rent out its buildings to students, just at a much lower price than those on the private housing market. If we renounce the income from these rents, we would be doubly penalised, since, in addition to the evident financial shortfall and the consequent impact on our social budgets, we would be faced with a debt vis-à-vis our own landlords.

To conclude, we hope that everyone understands that these decisions have no other objective than to respect legal constraints, and that we continue to implement our social policy for the benefit of the students most affected by the current crisis.

Ph. Dubois, Rector                 M. Labie, First Vice-Rector             Ph. Mettens, Administrator


Update 27 march

Dear members of the University,

As you have probably heard by now, our government has, unsurprisingly, decided to extend the confinement period until 19th April in order to halt the spread of the coronavirus. Please respect the measures scrupulously. This is in your interest and that of your loved ones.

It is essential that everyone adopts the precautionary and necessary behaviours which are intended to limit the pandemic in order to avoid blocking our health system and, ultimately, to protect the most vulnerable people in the community.

We have experienced some very trying days, with the skills of many UMONS members, both in our Faculties/Schools and in our general services, having been put to the test. They have all made a considerable effort, often remotely, to ensure that our institution continues to run smoothly.

Please know that we are fully aware of, and are extremely grateful for, your dedication. Thank you once again!

Our main focus has been on implementing the tools necessary for distance learning to take place. This has not, however, prevented us from working hard to also accomplish our missions of research and services to society.

Since the start of the crisis, UMONS has fully assumed its scientific role in the fight against the pandemic. It is with great pride that we are able to share with you a list of just some of the research projects which are currently being carried out within our walls and/or in collaboration with external partners (see below).

As you will read, and many media outlets have talked about it, all fields are concerned by the activities carried out by our researchers.

This proves, if proof were needed, our community’s commitment to crucial values, such as mutual support and generosity, which are all the more precious in these complicated times. To anyone who is in a teaching, research, technical or administrative role at UMONS, thank you for your contribution.

If you wish to help the teams of researchers and caregivers in our province, you may do so through the fundraiser launched by the Fonds pour la Recherche Médicale en Hainaut (Fund for Medical Research in Hainaut – FMRH), which depends on UMONS. The purpose of this fundraiser is to support fundamental, clinical and medical research. In this period of crisis, which has hit Hainaut with full force, the FRMH has decided to launch a fundraising campaign for medical teams. The medical field has urgent needs. Through the Koalect application, you can make a donation (tax deduction from 40 euros) in just a few clicks via this link. The FRMH management committee will ensure that the sums collected are allocated as equitably as possible between the hospitals in Hainaut.

Take good care of yourself and your loved ones!
Ph. Dubois, Rector M. Labie, First Vice-Rector Ph. Mettens, Administrator

First COVID-19 screening platform in Hainaut
Operational since the beginning of the week, this federally accredited screening platform is a huge contribution to the vital effort in fighting COVID-19. Developed by UNamur and transferred to UMONS with the help of our UMONS Innovation Center, Materia Nova, the screening device housed in the Pentagon (Plaine de Nimy campus), is able to process more than 400 tests per day for hospitals in the region, their in-patients and their staff. This greatly contributes to the increase in national screening capacity. Teams from the platform, led by our Vice-Rector Ruddy Wattiez, are composed of approximately 40 volunteer researchers and logisticians from laboratories of the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy. They take turns, seven days a week, to carry out this capital operation, which was set up in record time.

A Survey on Anosmia and Taste Disorders in Covid-19 Positive Patients
A prospective study into smell and taste disorders has just been launched by UMONS under the initiative of Professor Sven Saussez (FPMs) and Professor Jérôme Lechien (Foch Hospital – Paris), both ENT specialists. In recent weeks, several experts in countries affected by the epidemic have found that anosmia, hyposmia (smell disorder) and dysgeusia (taste disorder) manifested in certain infected patients, in the absence of other respiratory diseases. These patients could be properly screened and isolated from the general population. It is in this context that the questionnaire by Saussez and Lechien was created in order to collect as much scientific data as possible. Such information could have a major impact on screening for the COVID-19 infection. A call centre has also been set up. The questionnaire is answered anonymously, on a voluntary basis, and either by telephone or online via this link. Please note, it is only for those who have tested positive for COVID-19 (who are not in intensive care), those told to stay at home by their doctor or a specialist doctor based on symptoms (without being tested), or patients with symptoms of anosmia since 1st March (therefore excluding patients with chronic sinusitis, those who have had sinus surgery, and those with anosmia prior to 1st March).

Development of a rapid COVID-19 diagnostic test
This project is the result of a collaboration between the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy, the Health Research Institute and Magnetrap. Its target audience is front-line users: paramedics, general practitioners, retirement home staff, home healthcare workers, etc. It aims to develop a COVID-19 rapid diagnostic test based on technology initially co-developed by Magnetrap and the University of Lyon 1 to detect malaria. Its primary qualities are portability, speed, sensitivity, quality and ease of use. Magnetrap’s teams benefit from UMONS infrastructure and its expertise, which is also reinforced by partnerships established with the spin-off B-SENS and the Liège-based company LACAR.

Decontamination of masks using plasma
Emergency service personnel currently use 40 to 50 medical masks per day for each patient they treat. Since we are aware of the current shortage of masks for healthcare staff, it is essential to study the possibility of decontaminating this equipment in order to reuse it. In recent years, plasma technologies, co-developed in Mons by UMONS and MATERIA NOVA (one of our UMONS Innovation Centers), have often been highlighted for their ability to modify and improve the properties of surfaces of all types of materials. With regard to the current health crisis and the shortage of medical equipment, a task force has been set up by Ministers Borsu and Morreale to study ways of producing masks and reusing used ones. As for the reuse of masks, the expertise from Mons intervenes at the assessment stage, to assess the ability of plasmas for the effective decontamination of masks. This strategy has been studied for several years around the world and, until now, has mostly concerned highly valuable medical objects (catheters, scalpels, …). The UMONS and MATERIA NOVA teams have been collaborating with the Centexbel research centre, which specialises in textiles, ULiège and the University Hospital (CHU) of Liège. The first trials began this week to test technology that is applicable on a large scale to objects such as surgical masks.

Study on the confinement and its impact on couples and families
A collection of data on marital and family relationships and couples’ experiences during confinement is being produced by the Child and Youth Clinical Psychology Unit (Professors Sarah Galdiolo and Justine Gaugue). A digital survey has been launched for this purpose. Data will be collected 4 times over the next few weeks. Confinement is indeed an exceptional situation which leads many couples and families to stay together 24 hours a day. Experiences of the marital couple and experiences of the couple as parents will be the dimensions studied in light of the different conditions of confinement and the various family setups. Experts hope to better understand the feelings of couples during this confinement, in order to reflect on the assistance and support devices that may be needed. In collaboration with other partners, the Unit is already considering the matter of coming out of confinement for children. Link to study.

The mental health of Belgians facing the Coronavirus crisis
The Psychodynamic and Systemic Clinical Psychology Unit (led by Jennifer Denis and Stephan Hendrick) has launched a study which aims to shed light on how Belgians are coping psychologically with the Coronavirus crisis. A short questionnaire was designed at the beginning of this week. Several questionnaires will be put online in the coming weeks and months to assess the evolution of the psychological experience of a large proportion of the Belgian population facing COVID-19. The aim will be to offer targeted recommendations for supporting people suffering from psychological distress. Over 1400 people have already answered the first questionnaire. Link to questionnaire.

A psychological support unit for staff and health professionals
On 24th March, we announced the launch of a psychological helpline for UMONS staff members who may be feeling uneasy due to the current health context and who feel the need to talk (email: UMONS-Ecoute@umons.ac.be). Since the announcement, this helpline has been expanded to cover hospitals in the region and their nursing staff, who may be under significant stress in their job. The Psychodynamic and Systemic Clinical Psychology Unit (led by Jennifer Denis and Stephan Hendrick) is currently working to support the helpline’s efforts and is also carrying out research on the matter.

Artificial intelligence for lung X-ray analysis
The Faculty of Engineering and Dr Sohaib Laraba are developing an artificial intelligence system based on “Deep Learning” so that COVID-19 can be detected automatically using chest X-ray images. This method helps to locate the infected area of the lung and could, with the help of an expert, deduce both the progression of the disease and the stage of infection. Although the results appear to be very promising, the system has yet to be validated by health specialists. It must also be tested with a larger database in order to generalise the conclusion. Data collection is currently underway.

Visors for face masks designed at FabLab UMONS
In collaboration with Fab-c (ULB Charleroi), FabLab UMONS is currently working on the production of visors for hospitals. These visors will be used to extend the life of the masks by preventing them from being contaminated.

Bioprofiling
The Bioprofiling platform, bringing together NMR and mass spectrometry technologies, will be involved in a study to identify predictive biomarkers for the diagnosis of COVID-19 and to monitor patients’ progress. Moreover, these biomarkers can also be used to determine the patients most at risk of developing a severe form of the disease. The Health and Biosciences Research Institutes are heavily involved in this project.


Update 26 march – For Staff

Dear colleagues,

We would like to communicate the latest decisions made by our authorities.

Creation of “helpdesks” for students

As announced by email on Tuesday 24th March, with contributions and assistance from different UMONS departments, the IT Department has finished setting up “helpdesk” type email addresses for each Faculty and School. These addresses will function as single points of contact which students can contact directly for any difficulties encountered regarding their online learning.

Initiated with the support of the Deans/Presidents, this approach aims to further strengthen interactions with our students during this complicated period. Therefore, students who may encounter difficulties in contacting our teachers, or in implementing the recommendations made by them, will be able to communicate their difficulties via these addresses. Students’ messages will be received by those responsible for organisational aspects within the faculties (various addresses linked to the dean and secretariats) who will then get in contact with the teacher(s) concerned and find solutions to the problem(s) encountered.

The purpose of implementing this system is to help you overcome the stress you may be experiencing as the end of this academic year approaches.

So that things are clear regarding the set-up of the helpdesks, we would like to share the message we sent to our students which you can find at the end of this email.

Maintaining pedagogical contact during the Easter holidays

In our message sent on 23rd March, teachers were asked to maintain contact with you, including during the Easter holidays. The concept of maintaining pedagogical contact needs to be clarified: teachers will not continue to teach their courses or provide students with new material during this period. They are simply asked to be available so that you may contact them, if necessary, to answer any course-related questions. If this is the case, you should send these questions via the usual communication tools (forums, Moodle). As a reminder, we can assure you that no graded assessments will take place during the confinement period.

Distance learning and live conferences on the MUMONS YouTube channel

MUMONS has launched a series of initiatives to take your mind off things. On Thursday, Professor Bruno De Lièvre (FPSE) gave a presentation, in French, entitled “Enseigner à distance : des outils et des taches(“Teaching from a distance – tools and tasks”), which was for all teachers, including those who are not part of the UMONS community and for those who teach in secondary schools. For more information on this conference, please visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/umons/permalink/10163369075640191/ and/or https://mumons.be/activites/les-directs-enseigner-a-distance-des-outils-et-des-taches/. Please also visit their YouTube channel. In all cases, it is recommended that the teachers prioritise the available institutional tools and follow the internal recommendations by using the tools offered by our techno-pedagogical teams.

If you have any questions, please send an email to: info.coronavirus@umons.ac.be

For up-to-date information on the measures taken by UMONS in relation to COVID-19, please visit www.umons.ac.be/CORONAVIRUS

 Check your emails and the UMONS Intranet regularly in order to be constantly aware of the latest recommendations in force.

We will be sure to inform you of any further developments.

We are relying on your sense of civic responsibility to respect these measures and to participate in this collective effort which is necessary to overcome this crisis.

Take good care of yourself and your loved ones!

Ph. Dubois, Rector M. Labie, First Vice-Rector Ph. Mettens, Administrator


Update 26 march – For Students

Dear students,

We would like to communicate the latest decisions made by our authorities.

Check your emails and the UMONS Intranet regularly in order to be constantly aware of the latest recommendations in force, as well as the measures taken by UMONS in relation to COVID-19 via www.umons.ac.be/CORONAVIRUS.

Creation of “helpdesks” for students

As you know, the public health measures in place throughout the country oblige us to organise the entire semester’s courses online. This isn’t our preferred method, but we are doing our best to ensure that the current situation does not jeopardise your studies this year.

Despite all the efforts of your teachers, you may be faced with certain difficulties. This is why all the Deans/Presidents of the UMONS Faculties/Schools have decided to launch helpdesks so you can seek assistance.

Feel free to report any difficulties related to the organisation of your courses to the correct email address (see below) with the subject line “Helpdesk + name of course/learning activity concerned“. Your email will be redirected to the appropriate person within your Faculty/School, who will be sure to follow up with you.

Here are the email addresses of the 9 helpdesks that have been set up:

We realise that organising yourself under the current circumstances may be a real challenge. Therefore, we hope that these helpdesks make things easier for you. The purpose of implementing this system is to help you overcome the stress you may be experiencing as the end of this academic year approaches.

Maintaining pedagogical contact during the Easter holidays

In our message sent on 23rd March, teachers were asked to maintain contact with you, including during the Easter holidays. The concept of maintaining pedagogical contact needs to be clarified: teachers will not continue to teach their courses or provide students with new material during this period. They are simply asked to be available so that you may contact them, if necessary, to answer any course-related questions. If this is the case, you should send these questions via the usual communication tools (forums, Moodle). As a reminder, we can assure you that no graded assessments will take place during the confinement period.

Finally, may we remind you that we have created a page on the Intranet aptly titled “Etudier pendant le Coronavirus(“Studying during the Coronavirus”). For advice related to distance learning, please click here.

If you have any questions, please send an email to: info.coronavirus@umons.ac.be

We will be sure to inform you of any further developments.

We are relying on your sense of civic responsibility to respect these measures and to participate in this collective effort which is necessary to overcome this crisis.

Hang in there!

Take good care of yourself and your loved ones! And in spite of everything, enjoy the spring!

Ph. Dubois, Rector       M. Labie, First Vice-Rector        Ph. Mettens, Administrator


Update 24 march – For Staff

Dear staff,

First of all, we would like to sincerely thank you for the unfailing commitment to our institution and its smooth functioning that you have shown since the start of this crisis, despite the distance imposed by the overall measure of teleworking.  

Your responsiveness means a lot to us. It has also allowed us to carefully solve every problem, even the most unpredictable, as they have arisen.

We would also like to take this opportunity to express our immense pride in all of our research teams, who are working tirelessly to limit the spread of the pandemic and its effects within our population.

The media has already considerably echoed this: the first screening platform for the COVID-19 coronavirus in the province of Hainaut was launched at UMONS on Tuesday 24th March 2020 (see the news on our site via this link). A real feat in such a short time!

You should know that other initiatives of the same kind will be launched in the next few days, particularly for diagnostic assistance and support. We will certainly keep you informed about this.

Know that these initiatives comfort us with the feeling that all of us are lucky to belong to a united and generous community. Thank you all again!

Here is the information we wish to share with you today:

The launch of a “UMONS-Ecoute” unit

UMONS staff members who feel uncomfortable with the current health situation in which we find ourselves, and who feel the need to talk about it, can now do so via a psychological helpline. In order to comply with the social distancing instructions, “UMONS-Ecoute” is there to support you in exchanges by videoconference or by telephone. If you’d like to contact us, send an email to UMONS-Ecoute@umons.ac.be. A clinical psychologist will contact you as soon as possible. It is essential that you leave your phone number or videoconference address so that they can call you back. Total confidentiality is, of course, guaranteed.

MUMONS to take your mind off things (a little)

Our MUMONS team has launched a series of initiatives to take your mind off things. It starts Tuesday evening at 8 p.m. with a live conference by Francesco Lo Bue about our solar system! A virtual meet-up will take place every Tuesday and Thursday at 8 p.m. This Thursday, Bruno De Lièvre, Head of the Pedagogical Engineering and Digital Education Unit (FPSE-UMONS) will help confined teachers, by giving a presentation, in French, entitled: “Enseigner à distance – des outils et des tâches” (“Teaching from a distance – tools and tasks”). These meet-ups will include conferences, virtual exhibitions, educational tools and precious online resources. To not miss out in these times of confinement, visit the MUMONS website regularly, as well as their YouTube channel and Facebook page.

If you have any questions, please send an email to: info.coronavirus@umons.ac.be

For up-to-date information on the measures taken by UMONS in relation to COVID-19, please visit www.umons.ac.be/CORONAVIRUS

Check your emails and the UMONS Intranet regularly in order to be constantly aware of the latest recommendations in force.

We will be sure to inform you of any further developments.

We are relying on your sense of civic responsibility to respect these measures and to participate in this collective effort which is necessary to overcome this crisis.

Take good care of yourself and your loved ones!

Ph. Dubois, Rector       M. Labie, First Vice-Rector            Ph. Mettens, Administrator


Update 24 march for Students

Dear students,

First of all, we hope that you are well and that you are taking good care of yourself and your loved ones in these strange and difficult times.

The measures below apply to you. Please read them carefully.

 Check your emails and the UMONS Intranet regularly in order to be constantly aware of the latest recommendations in force.

For up-to-date information on the measures taken by UMONS in relation to COVID-19, please visit www.umons.ac.be/CORONAVIRUS

Psychological Well-Being

If you have been concerned about your well-being since the beginning of this health crisis, the UMONS authorities inform you that the U-Psy Unit is available to students who feel unwell and need some support. To limit the spread of the virus as much as possible, and in view of the current situation, U-Psy has obviously had to switch to consultations by videoconference (Skype, Facetime or WhatsApp). Videoconferences of small groups to discuss various subjects, and to have the point of view of other students (around 5 people), could also be organised if desired. These will take place via Microsoft Teams and by appointment. U-Psy also remains available for telephone appointments (requests for which should be made by sending an e-mail to aurelie.vilers@umons.ac.be). For more information, click here.

Halls of Residence

We have had a number of requests from some of you regarding the payment of rent for our halls of residence. We must remind you that the confinement measures imposed on you (with recommendations to return home for students who can do so) have only one objective: the preservation of the health of our students. This is about saving lives. Our Social Services Unit is available to all our tenants who may be faced with significant financial difficulties. You can send an email to service.social@umons.ac.be.

Library Resources

The UMONS libraries are closed until further notice, but electronic resources remain accessible via a remote desktop server or a VPN connection. Due to the confinement measures, access to certain electronic resources has been widened and the resources on offer may change. You can follow this development and get all the useful information via the Libraries’ Intranet or their Facebook page. Our librarians remain at your disposal to answer your questions. Do not hesitate to contact them by email.

Special Needs Students

Protecting students with disabilities from COVID-19 has been the top priority of Les Cèdres. Its teaching team are using all means to check in on these students and to give them individual explanations of online courses, by email, by phone, by Skype, or by videoconference (with or without sign language interpretation) depending on the specific needs of each student. Course materials and academic work continue to be sent to them in files suitable for students with or without visual impairment. The team’s objective is to ensure that any student with a disability can benefit from the best possible follow-up in the current situation of confinement. Les Cèdres remains at your disposal for any follow-up of the various dossiers taken on by its pedagogical team. For more information, please send an email to: lescedres@umons.ac.be

Repatriation costs for students abroad

A procedure has been put in place by the International Relations Office for the reimbursement of travel expenses in the context of emergency repatriation of UMONS students stranded abroad. For more information, please click here.

Creation of Faculty “helpdesks”

The IT Department is currently busy setting up “help desk” type email addresses for each Faculty and School. These addresses will function as single points of contact which students can contact directly for any difficulties encountered regarding their online learning. We will get back to you with more information on this very soon.

REMINDER

Placements, dissertations and exams

As already communicated, we are well aware of the many unanswered questions regarding these matters. Discussions are still being held with the cabinet of the Minister of Higher Education to further define the practical arrangements for the organisation of all types of assessment. We will certainly keep you informed.

Provision of computer equipment and strengthening our means of telecommunication

In order to guarantee remote access to resources, may we remind you that UMONS has taken the following measures:

  • Students who do not have any computer equipment are asked to contact feldheim@umons.ac.be. A computer loan system has been set up thanks to a collaboration with the “Jeunesses Scientifiques de Belgique”, in addition to the purchase of new computers by our University.
  • Students who do not have a Wi-Fi/network connection at home , and who therefore do not have satisfactory access to remote resources, can contact devos@umons.ac.be. A partnership has been set up with our operator Proximus so that additional technical solutions can be implemented in the event of a faulty network connection. For all questions relating to costs incurred during this period, we will get back to you in due course to see to what extent they could be covered by UMONS.

If you have any questions, please send an email to: info.coronavirus@umons.ac.be

We will be sure to inform you of any further developments.

Take good care of yourself and your loved ones!

Ph. Dubois, Rector       M. Labie, First Vice-Rector            Ph. Mettens, Administrator


Update 23 March 2020

Dear members of the University,

A videoconference bringing together the heads of higher education institutions and Minister Valérie Glatigny was held on Monday afternoon of 23rd March.

Following this meeting, the Conseil des Recteurs francophones (Council of Rectors in Francophone Belgium – CRef) issued the following press release:

The universities’ management of the coronavirus crisis has a threefold objective: to be fully committed to the measures in order to contain the pandemic; to apply all their medical, scientific and technological capacities to crisis management; and to continue to provide training for their students. These objectives have been decided mutually.

A key measure taken in this context was the widespread transition to virtual education as of 16th March, which has been more successful than expected. Now arises the question of the continuation of the semester beyond 5th April. Even taking into account the Easter holidays, which takes us up to 19th April, it is already highly likely that bringing large groups of people together will not be recommended for several weeks following the end of the current period of restriction.

After the coordination meeting organised by the Minister of Higher Education, the Universities have unanimously decided to continue distance learning until the end of the semester. In this they join the position of the Flemish universities. As well as the protective aspect of the measure, it allows us to calmly plan our teaching activities, and allows us to avoid prematurely considering when face-to-face teaching should resume.

In addition, removing uncertainty about the organisation of our lessons allows us to focus on more delicate matters that have still not been resolved by our system of virtual education. It is still premature to make decisions on the organisation of exams, but all universities have set themselves the goal of finishing the second semester, including the assessments, without significantly departing from the originally planned schedule. This will allow us to maintain the calendar for the resit period (second session) and start the 2020-2021 academic year with the current problems behind us.”

From this mutual standpoint, it has therefore been decided, within UMONS, to:

  • Extend the widespread use of distance learning until the end of the semester
  • Continue to favour flexibility within our institution for the organisation of these distance courses. To this end, teachers are asked to maintain pedagogical contact with the students (including during the Easter holidays) and to continue to show kindness and understanding, with regard to the exceptional situation in which we find ourselves.

We are well aware of the many questions about placements, dissertations and exams. Discussions are being held with the Minster’s cabinet to further define the practical arrangements for their organisation. We will certainly keep you informed.

In order to guarantee remote access to resources, may we remind you that UMONS has taken the following measures:

  • Students who do not have any computer equipment are asked to contact feldheim@umons.ac.be. A computer loan system has been set up thanks to a collaboration with the “Jeunesses Scientifiques de Belgique”, in addition to the purchase of new computers by our University.
  • Students who do not have a Wi-Fi/network connection at home, and who therefore do not have satisfactory access to remote resources, can contact devos@umons.ac.be. A partnership has been set up with our operator Proximus so that additional technical solutions can be implemented in the event of a faulty network connection.

Students/researchers abroad

After all the individual contacts made by the International Relations Office and the faculty coordinators, 24 members of UMONS (22 students and 2 researchers) expressed their wish to return to Belgium. Their identities and contact details have been communicated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to organise their repatriation. We are following their individual situations very closely.

If you have any questions, please send an email to: info.coronavirus@umons.ac.be

For up-to-date information on the measures taken by UMONS in relation to COVID-19, please visit www.umons.ac.be/CORONAVIRUS

Check your emails and the UMONS Intranet regularly in order to be constantly aware of the latest recommendations in force.

We will be sure to inform you of any further developments.

We are relying on your sense of civic responsibility to respect these measures and to participate in this collective effort which is necessary to overcome this crisis.

Ph. Dubois, Rector       M. Labie, First Vice-Rector            Ph. Mettens, Administrator


Update 18th March 2020

Dear members of the University,

Based on recommendations issued by the National Security Council (which are based on the opinion of scientific experts), the federal government decided, on Tuesday evening of 17th March, to impose generalised containment measures on the whole country and the Belgian population in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

These severe measures, which are in line with what UMONS had already anticipated in recent days, will apply everywhere, to everyone, to all organisations, including our institution, from midday today (18th March 2020). They also apply to the entire UMONS community until 5th April 2020.

We are obliged to apply them rigorously, and are more than willing to do so, as these measures are clearly consistent with the preventative actions that we have put in place since the beginning of the crisis. In practical terms, the physical presence on the UMONS premises is now strictly and exclusively limited to those whose missions are considered essential/urgent for the institution and approved by the authorities.

To put it more clearly: no one is permitted to use our facilities from this Wednesday 12 p.m. until 5th April, except for the personnel, designated by the authorities, in charge of safety and the essential maintenance of the UMONS infrastructures who must monitor equipment which cannot be shut down (for this purpose, department heads, whose scientific activities may present dangers or require specific maintenance, will take the appropriate measures in strict consultation with the authorities).

If physical presence in the workplace is absolutely essential, strict compliance with the safety distance between colleagues must be observed.

Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, as recalled by the CREF press release issued on Tuesday evening, “Universities are acting vigorously to slow the progression of the pandemic. Their staff are prepared, and their research contributes to the understanding and the management of the pandemic. They shall strictly apply the new measures taken by the federal government. Fortunately, courses can be maintained and taught remotely. Our goal is for this period of confinement to be viewed by our students as a learning experience, which is certainly a special, but effective, case.”

As such, UMONS is proud to announce that it will play a frontline role in the fight against the pandemic, with several of our researchers already involved in the establishment of a Coronavirus detection cell in Hainaut, the purpose of which is to increase the capacity for analysis and thus reduce response time. We will get back to you shortly on the implementation of this detection platform.

In the meantime, please comply with the orders issued by our federal government. They serve only one purpose: to preserve our health system as much as possible from the current crisis, so as to protect the most vulnerable among us.

If you have any questions, please send an email to: info.coronavirus@umons.ac.be.

For up-to-date information on the measures taken by UMONS in relation to COVID-19, please visit www.umons.ac.be/CORONAVIRUS

Check your emails and the UMONS Intranet regularly in order to be constantly aware of the latest recommendations in force.

We will be sure to inform you of any further developments.

We are relying on your sense of civic responsibility to respect these measures and participate in this collective effort which is necessary to overcome the crisis.

Ph. Dubois, Rector      M. Labie, First Vice-Rector             Ph. Mettens, Administrator


Update 17th March 2020

Dear members of the University,

First of all, we would like to thank you for the respect displayed enormously by each and every one of you with regard to the instructions given so far within our institution.

It is only individually and collectively that we will make an effective contribution in order to limit the spread of the pandemic. Every action counts!

Access to Buildings

In order to avoid intrusions and thefts on our premises, since Tuesday 17th March 2020, and until further notice, UMONS buildings can only be accessed by badge during this period of reduced activity.

May we remind you that the presence of staff on-site must be limited to only those whose activity has been defined as essential to the institution by the authorities, or for the preservation of the safety of our equipment (on-going scientific experiments requiring supervision, for example).

Teleworking and IT resources

We remind staff that teleworking is preferred in all cases. Be sure to follow the remote connection instructions provided for this purpose on the Intranet by our IT Department.

Please note that internal and external initiatives (notably with the Jeunesses Scientifiques de Belgique), which provide IT equipment to those who require it, are currently in place for our staff and students.

Students who do not have access to a computer are asked to notify their Faculty/School secretary who will gladly help them.

Organisation of Courses

We are aware of the uncertainties currently posed by the pandemic regarding the suspension of face-to-face courses. At this stage, however, it is essential for us to focus the efforts of the institution with the sole objective of limiting COVID-19.

We urge you to believe that, in time, and with the political decision-making authorities, we will resolve the difficulties encountered in individual academic paths.

Students Abroad (Erasmus, work placements, etc.)

We are aware of the difficulties that may be encountered by some of you. We remind you that UMONS undertakes to cover the repatriation costs of those who wish to, and can, leave their host country and return to Belgium. However, please inform yourself beforehand of the best attitude to adopt in your case by visiting SPF Affaires Etrangères (Federal Public Service for Foreign Affairs) via this link and getting in touch with the Embassy of your host country. Your faculty coordinator, whose contact details you will find via this Intranet link (log in required!), is also available. The International Relations Office is also at your disposal via relint@umons.ac.be for any specific advice.

Check your emails and the UMONS Intranet regularly in order to be constantly aware of the latest recommendations in force.

If you have any questions, please send an email to: info.coronavirus@umons.ac.be.

For up-to-date information on the measures taken by UMONS in relation to COVID-19, please visit www.umons.ac.be/CORONAVIRUS

We will be sure to inform you of any further developments.

We are relying on your strict cooperation.

Ph. Dubois, Rector     M. Labie, First Vice-Rector            Ph. Mettens, Administrator


Update 16th March 2020

Dear members of the University,

It is our collective and individual duty to contribute effectively to the fight against the spread of the coronavirus.

We can do this by very strictly applying the measures of social distancing recommended by the political and health authorities.

This is why we have decided to limit the physical presence of our students and staff on the University’s premises.

It’s very simple: avoid coming to the University as much as possible!

Concretely:

  1. For staff:

Teleworking is established for ALL categories of personnel: levels 1 and 2, and all manual labourers and administrative and technical staff (“PATO” staff), as well as researchers.

Presence on our premises must now be strictly limited to the tasks essential to maintaining a minimum functioning of the institution.

Department heads have been asked to define these missions, so as to identify a minimum required service. This is particularly the case with scientific activities. Activities that can be put on hold, must be. Those that require an essential presence to maintain their scientific activities may come on-site, but must strictly adhere to social distance guidelines.

  1. For Students :

We ask students not to come to the University.

Access to our buildings is restricted from Tuesday 17/03/2020. The University’s restaurants, libraries and study rooms are now closed in order to strictly comply with social distancing guidelines.

University halls of residence remain accessible only to those who live there and do not have other accommodation options. Solutions to ensure the continuity of accommodation will be implemented for these people. All other tenants in our halls of residence are asked to return to their homes and respect the recommended distancing measures. Any appearance of suspicious symptoms (fever, cough, breathing difficulties…) must be immediately reported by phone to a doctor, as well as by email to the Housing Office at cites@umons.ac.be.

As a reminder, the implementation of distance learning will be gradual. The arrangements will be communicated to you regularly via the intranet and Moodle. Remember that, from now on, protecting our health is THE priority and that controlling the spread of COVID-19 must inspire our actions.

Even though we understand that it is natural for students to want to meet up and be social, we can only strongly advise you to minimise human contact, even in your private lives. Avoid private gatherings. What is dangerous right now is being around large amounts of people in close proximity. Everyone is at risk (even young people) and, above all, at risk of putting others at risk, particularly the most fragile (the sick and the elderly), without even realising it.

In other words, it is essential that we all adopt sensible behaviours designed to limit the spread of the pandemic, to prevent blocking our health system and, ultimately, to protect the most vulnerable people in our society.

If you have any questions, please send an email to: info.coronavirus@umons.ac.be.

For up-to-date information on the measures taken by UMONS in relation to COVID-19, please visit www.umons.ac.be/CORONAVIRUS

Check your emails and the UMONS Intranet regularly in order to be constantly aware of the latest recommendations in force.

We will be sure to inform you of any further developments.

We are relying on your strict cooperation.

Ph. Dubois, Rector      M. Labie, First Vice-Rector             Ph. Mettens, Administrator


UPDATE – March 12th

Following the Council of Francophone Rectors meeting at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday 12th March 2020, all Francophone universities of Belgium have mutually decided to switch to online teaching in order to maintain the continuity of academic activity, while helping to slow the progression of the COVID-19 epidemic.

The exact modalities will be determined by each institution based on their specific situation. It is expected that the switch to online teaching (distance learning) will begin without delay and will be fully effective as of Monday 16th March 2020.

Following this collegial decision of the rectors, the following measures have been decided regarding UMONS.

  1. Adapting teaching methods

Face-to-face courses are suspended as of Friday 13th March. This is so that teachers have some time to be able to set up their courses online.

The Vice-Rector for Education will send an email to all teachers to clarify the practicalities. Teachers must then pass on the specific modalities for each course (learning activity) to the students concerned. 

  1. Travelling abroad

2.1. Study trips organised by the UMONS Faculties/Schools are postponed until after Sunday 19th April 2020.

2.2. All professional trips abroad by staff members are prohibited until after Sunday 19th April 2020, except in extenuating circumstances which must be duly justified and approved by the Faculty Dean/President, regardless of the length of the trip.

2.3. All Erasmus/Fame-Mercator student mobility departures scheduled for before 19th April 2020 must be postponed. 

  1. Receiving and hosting people from abroad

3.1. Receiving and hosting people from abroad, both members of our staff and those from other institutions, is not authorised until after Sunday 19th April 2020, unless duly justified by the authorities.

3.2. For incoming mobility students who are already at UMONS, and for those who are guests in Belgium, it is important to ensure that you have all the official information on the measures taken to limit the spread of the virus, and that you know how to access healthcare in Belgium. We rely on everyone’s cooperation to help make this information accessible. 

  1. Adapting working conditions

Unlike face-to-face teaching, research activities are maintained.

However, the final decision on this lies with the heads of department/unit, who must stipulate if research activities can continue, and must specify the conditions under which the research can be carried out.

All department/unit heads are also asked to consider teleworking as much as possible (including for Level 2 staff), particularly for the frail, those who develop symptoms, those in self-quarantine, and those who have been in close contact with infected people. 

  1. Non-essential meetings

It has been decided that non-essential meetings are/will be cancelled or postponed, and that remote meetings should be favoured until 19th April 2020. 

  1. Flexible schedules for staff

For those who are required to attend the university, they are asked to make other arrangements as far as possible in order to avoid using public transport during rush hours. 

  1. Mass events and symposia

It has been decided that all types of mass events/conferences/symposia organised by and at UMONS are/will be cancelled or postponed, regardless of the number of participants. This includes, but is not limited to, activities such as the Journée Portes Ouvertes (open day) of 28th March, the Printemps des Sciences, and Journée Math-Sciences (maths-science day). This decision is valid until 19th April 2020.

We will be sure to inform you of any further developments.

It is essential that everyone adopts the precautionary and necessary behaviours which are intended to limit the epidemic in order to avoid blocking our health system and, ultimately, to protect the most vulnerable people in the community.

If you have any questions, please send an email to: info.coronavirus@umons.ac.be

 

 



Update 10th March 2020

You are already aware that the outbreak of the COVID-19 Coronavirus has been progressing significantly in our country in recent days.

Although no cases have been detected at our University so far, we are prepared to deal with this eventuality. All measures have been, and will continue to be, taken to protect students and staff members, whether they are currently in Belgium or abroad.

In this respect, it is everyone’s responsibility to take an active part in the effort to limit the spread of the epidemic.

Several decisions have been taken to this effect since Tuesday 10th March 2020.

  • First of all, it is once again recommended that staff and students scrupulously respect basic hygiene instructions, such as washing their hands regularly, and contacting their doctor and staying home in the presence of symptoms such as fever, coughing and/or breathing difficulties.
  • Until further notice, we strongly recommend that the UMONS community avoid handshakes and greeting each other the “Belgian way” with a kiss on the cheek, with a preference for cordial greetings from a distance, avoiding physical contact.
  • A meeting between the six rectors of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation was held on the evening of Monday 9th March in order to share information and exchange good practices, as well as to consult on useful initiatives. During this meeting, it was agreed to cancel, as of today and until further notice, any student evenings/events taking place in the University buildings. We also ask the student leaders to extend this decision to other parties they are organising that are not held on the University premises. The Rectors are of course aware that this decision has an impact on student life with its festive component. Nevertheless, they are convinced that these restrictions are a reasonable and proportionate measure that can help to contain, or at least slow down, the progression of the COVID-19 virus and, in so doing, preserve the essential activities of the University as much as possible, that is to say, teaching.
  • Courses continue as usual, but the UMONS authorities remain attentive to the evolution of the recommendations made in this respect by the Federal Public Service for Health (SPF Santé) and the Ministry of Higher Education.

As we have already pointed out, we ask you to keep yourself regularly informed of the evolution of the situation via the Intranet page dedicated to the Coronavirus.

Please also consult the official information sites which provide instructions in terms of safety, hygiene and travel/stays abroad depending on the destination.


3 March

​​​​​​​Recommendations from the UMONS authorities to staff and students

In order to respond to questions from the community about the spread of the coronavirus, the University of Mons (UMONS) would like to inform its staff and students that the situation is under constant review by the authorities.
​​​​​​​In this case, UMONS takes care to comply with the recommendations issued by the Federal Public Services (SPF) for Heath and for Foreign Affairs and encourages members of its community to do the same.

No unnecessary risks will be taken towards members of our community. UMONS is adopting appropriate measures to protect its students and staff, whether they are currently in Belgium or abroad, which has been the case since the beginning of the epidemic in China. In addition, UMONS will make every effort to ensure that courses are not impacted by the uncertainties of the current situation.

In order for you to have factual, moderated and constantly up-to-date information, please visit the official information sites which provide instructions regarding safety, hygiene, travel, and stays abroad depending on the destination (see list of websites on this page).

  • If you are a student currently abroad, in an area or country considered to be at risk, and you wish to return (and are not subject to confinement or quarantine), UMONS will cover the costs of your repatriation. This early return will have no negative impact on your academic journey. UMONS will take measures so that an alternative solution can be found by your Faculty/School.
    Since it is impossible to predict the evolution of the situation and the extent of the measures taken by local and international authorities (WHO), which could potentially impact your future mobility placement, UMONS strongly advises students, who are soon carry out their mobility placement, to not go to an area potentially affected by the epidemic such as, for the moment, China, Italy, South Korea and Singapore (refer to list regularly updated by SPF Foreign Affairs). Please contact your faculty coordinator whose contact details you will find via this Intranet link (log in required!) in order for you both to discuss the terms of withdrawal and an alternative solution, which would have no negative impact on your academic journey.
    If you are a member of staff (PATO, teacher, researcher) about to go abroad, we recommend that you take note of the risks incurred by consulting the official information sites listed below. For any specific advice regarding your situation, please contact the International Relations Office at relint@umons.ac.be or on 065373726 / 065373742.
    If you are a member of staff awaiting the arrival of a foreign colleague (or colleagues) from one of the at-risk and constantly reassessed areas, please be aware that, with the assistance of the health authorities, UMONS will assess each of these arrivals on a case-by-case basis, taking into account, for example, certified state of health, geographical origin, length of stay, and prior agreement of the reception service, until the security measures in the countries concerned have been completely lifted.

Finally, in case symptoms appear (fever and breathing difficulties), if you have visited one of the countries affected by the epidemic, or if you have been in close contact with a person declared sick and who has returned from one of these countries, stay at home and call your doctor (general practitioner / family doctor) to explain the situation and your symptoms. DO NOT go to the doctor’s surgery and wait in the waiting room, DO NOT go to the hospital (A&E / the ER), and AVOID public places!