Western and King’s have cancelled all of the school’s international exchanges arranged for the summer, as cases of the novel coronavirus rise rapidly in Canada and explode around the world.
The university has no plan to move classes online, as Laurentian University did Wednesday, after finding a case near campus. Western University said they were following the recommendation of London-Middlesex Health Unit, but are creating a plan in case exams will need to be moved off of campus.
The rapidly-spreading virus, now declared a pandemic, is causing confusion and panic around the world. This decision from King’s University College and Western comes as universities across the country close their campuses, move their classes online and remake their exam schedules.
Canadian health officials announced the country’s first virus-related death on Monday. London’s first case of COVID-19 came via a Western student in January, who self-quarantined and did not enter campus while sick. They have since recovered and no other cases have been announced in the city.
Western’s president, Alan Shepard, released a statement on Wednesday, addressing the health risks of travelling abroad and said that all university international travelling for students are cancelled “to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of the university community.”
The statement also says there will be increased sanitation efforts on campus.
This echoes a statement King released yesterday, stating the school will not be able to “provide quarantine space abroad should a King’s community member become ill during a university-sanctioned trip.”
The schools are cancelling all “outbound international exchange and summer programs” including their experiential learning trips to Italy, France, Belgium and around the United States; this will affect 59 King’s students.
The affiliate said they will help students with nonrefundable costs, like flight cancellations and are looking at reworking courses so students still earn course credit.
“The progression of the virus is not slowing down,” King’s principal David Malloy said. “So we made a decision, we perhaps aired on the side of caution, but we wanted to make sure that student’s academic standing was not going to be impacted negatively by this.”
Over 4,000 people have died worldwide as a result over the virus that has infected over 100,000 people since its outbreak. COVID-19 has been detected in over 100 countries, with the majority of cases in China, South Korea, Italy and Iran.
Italy –– with a popular experiential learning trip offered by both campuses –– has been entirely quarantined and is globally considered a “red zone.” Many Canadian airlines have grounded their flights to the country.
Healthcare officials recommend washing your hands for at least 20 seconds and staying home from work or school if you feel ill.
The university says they will release daily updates on the virus.