London’s local health unit is bracing for students’ return to the city, as online classes are set to resume Monday.
Coronavirus cases have surged in London since the start of winter holidays, with the city breaking multiple daily case records this week alone. The Middlesex-London Health Unit reported 184 new cases in the city on Tuesday, which beat Monday’s record of 135, making students’ return all the more challenging for health officials.
“You’re probably leaving a locked-down area to come to another locked-down area, so nothing changes,” said Dr. Alex Summers, associate medical officer of health with the MLHU. “When you get here, your only close contacts are those with whom you live. End of story. Frost Week is cancelled.”
Health officials fear Londoners are growing slack with social distancing, as the rate of spread is growing exponentially. Dr. Summers highlighted that, while it took 262 days for London to reach 1,000 total cases of the virus, it took only nine days — from Dec. 29 to Jan. 6 — to get from 3,000 to 4,000.
There are currently around 1,000 active cases in the region.
London’s Mayor Ed Holder said the challenges of students returning to London go beyond potential gatherings, as young people are more likely to be asymptomatic spreaders of the virus, especially as they return from hotspots like the GTA.
“You come back to London, we can’t tell you to quarantine … but we are going to ask people to be more mindful to do that social distancing and, for God’s sake, do not, do not hang around in large groups,” said Holder.
Western University cancelled all in-person university gatherings until Jan. 25, the first Monday after London’s lockdown is set to end on Jan. 23. All courses that were set to run in-person will transition online for the first two weeks of class.
Queen’s University asked students to avoid traveling to Kingston until after the lockdown, while Western has requested students follow MLHU guidelines to “drastically reduce close contacts with others for 14 days before travelling.”
With files from Emily Tayler, Editor-in-Chief.