The recent outbreak of COVID-19 is the gravest health crisis the world has seen in a century. A significant proportion of asymptomatic carriers of the disease, often with mild symptoms that can be confused for other illnesses, and a lack of sufficient testing makes it extremely hard to accurately assess the number of infected people. The death toll and the number of patients in urgent need of hospital treatment however is still exponentially increasing in most affected areas (1).
On Monday the 6th of April (06.04.2020), the World Health Organisation counts 1.133.758 reported cases and 62.784 deaths. Alongside with the United States, Europe remains an epicentre of the global pandemic, with 621.407 confirmed cases (2)
These figures exploded in a matter of days, putting Europe’s national healthcare systems in severe distress, with some (e.g. Italy’s and Spain’s) currently on the verge of collapse. One reason for this is the slow pace and delays in taking action on part of the European decision-makers, with crisis response starting in mid-March while international spread started in January and major outbreaks outside China in mid-February. The current political answer to ease the pressure on healthcare systems has included travel bans, closure of frontiers (also within the Schengen area), schools, universities, public buildings, and workplaces. Some of the most severely hit countries enforced a complete lockdown including the shutdown of all non-essential economic activities.
The implications of this pan-European lockdown are rapidly transforming a health crisis into an economic and social crisis. As a segment within wider society, students are hit in multiple ways while facing potentially extreme social and economic distress deriving from the response to the crisis.