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Arabic and Berber speaking students volunteer during the quarantine period in Antwerp

In Antwerp medical and nursing students that are able to speak Arabic and/or Berber are being used to explain to people in the city that are unable to understand Dutch what they should do if they test positive for the novel coronavirus. Anyone that tests positive is obliged to self-quarantine in order to prevent them passing on the virus to others. The students also help them draw up a list of the contacts they have had recently so that these people can be warned and advised to get themselves tested. The students work is important in tracing clusters of novel coronavirus infections.

Volunteer Machteld Verbruggen told VRT News that language and cultural barriers mean that a considerable number of people cannot be reached by the official contact tracers.

“The first clusters of infections in Antwerp were in an area where a lot of newcomers live. Of course words such as quarantine and illness are not the most obvious terms to understand. The students give an explanation about the illness and what you can do to limit its spread”.

The students try to create a sense of trust between themselves and the patients. “Trust is very important. Some newcomers have had bad experience with the authorities in the past. These people want to do the right thing but don’t know how they can. There is also a form of shame because no one wants to be seen as being infectious. Trust is of the essence”, Ms Verbruggen added.

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