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Coronavirus: Students sent home from year abroad in China

The outbreak of coronavirus in China has forced Oxford undergraduates to return to Britain from their year abroad.

The majority of Oxford students, who had been in China on their year abroad, have now returned to the UK.

Students, all of whom study at university in China rather than gaining employment, have had their studies suspended.

Term was supposed to begin on Monday 17th February, but this original date has been postponed until further notice.

With the Chinese universities closed indefinitely, Oxford University is setting up classes for second-year Chinese students, so that the interruption to their education is limited.

Concerning coronavirus, the University’s official advice focuses on harassment and discrimination. 

In the latest update on the website, the University said: “The health, welfare and safety of students and staff is the number one priority for the University. Oxford has a strong history of welcoming Chinese students and staff to the UK, and they are an integral part of our international community.

“We understand that students and staff may be worried about friends and family members in China, and our thoughts go to all those affected by this outbreak.

“We ask that students and staff support their fellow friends and colleagues at this difficult time. Harassment and discrimination of any kind, including racial harassment, are totally unacceptable at the University.

“Any instances of harassment should be reported immediately either to staff harassment advisors, or to college welfare leads in the case of students.”

Coronavirus,  a new strain of coronavirus first identified in Wuhan City, was declared a public health emergency of international concern at the end of January. 

The UK Chief Medical Officers have raised the risk to the public from low to moderate, and there have now been two confirmed cases in the UK.

Despite this, the Government maintains that the risk to individuals in the UK has not changed. It continues to advise only precautionary measures to prevent the spread of infection.

As of 5th February, a total of 468 UK tests have concluded, of which 466 were negative and 2 positive. 

Of the 1,466 passengers and 95 staff who arrived in the UK from Wuhan between 10th to 24th January, 162 passengers and 53 crew have left the UK and the remaining 1304 passengers are not outside the incubation period. 

In a statement, the four UK Chief Medical Officers on novel coronavirus said: “We have been working in close collaboration with international colleagues and the World Health Organization to monitor the situation in China and around the world.

“In light of the increasing number of cases in China and using existing and widely tested models, the 4 UK Chief Medical Officers consider it prudent for our governments to escalate planning and preparation in case of a more widespread outbreak.

“For that reason, we are advising an increase of the UK risk level from low to moderate. This does not mean we think the risk to individuals in the UK has changed at this stage, but that government should plan for all eventualities.

“As we have previously said, it is likely there will be individual cases and we are confident in the ability of the NHS in England, Scotland and Wales and HSC in Northern Ireland to manage these in a way that protects the public and provides high quality care.”

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