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UBC, SFU prep for novel coronavirus, exchange programs unaffected

Last Updated Feb 10, 2020 at 5:13 pm PDT

FILE -The UBC sign is pictured at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver on April 23, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Thousands of students are returning to campus following Lunar New Year holiday in China

UBC and SFU are keeping students updated on virus while forming planning committees

UBC has discussed cancelling student exchange programs with China, but it hasn't come to that yet

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — UBC and SFU are both taking steps to ensure their campuses are aware and remain clear of the novel coronavirus.

With many of the 6,000 students from mainland China who will be returning to UBC after the Lunar New Year holiday, spokesperson Matthew Ramsey says they’ve started putting out alerts to the broader UBC community.

“We’ve done that through postering in residences, emailing student and faculty in affected areas, we’ve sent a bulletin out to our senior leaders, we sent a broadcast email yesterday to all students, faculty, and staff,” he explains. “To be clear, we are not aware of any students, faculty, or staff in British Columbia or abroad who are ill with this virus.”

He acknowledges most people want information because they are concerned about how to protect themselves and what to do if they feel sick. Ramsey says UBC has started on a plan-of-action with a newly formed committee to allay fears of students and staff.

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“The university will take guidance from provincial and federal agencies on any travel restrictions. We’ve been working really hard over the last week to make sure our campus community is informed and that’s students, faculty, and staff,” he says.

Committees at the Vancouver and Okanagan UBC campuses will be in close contact with the BC Centre for Disease Control on how to detect and contain the virus if needed.

However, Ramsey admits cutting off exchanges with Chinese schools has come up in discussion.

“We have convened a group of stakeholders from across the university to plan and coordinate actions as new information emerges. At this point, we are not taking that action.”

Like UBC, SFU has also been putting out campus-wide notices advising about the latest situation.

Editor’s note: We have changed the headline and edited this article to correctly refer to the new virus.