UVic cancels large classes, restricts travel amid COVID-19 pandemic

Campus National News
File photo by Belle White, Photo Contributor

Following in line recommendations from the provincial government on the coronavirus outbreak, UVic has decided to cancel large classes and significantly restrict travel. 

“These new measures recommended by the Provincial Health Officer for all British Columbians are being taken in an effort to slow the disease, protect the vulnerable, protect our community, and protect the health care system,” the university said in a statement released Thursday night. 

Classes over 250 are cancelled effective Friday, March 13 as B.C.has advised against all public gatherings over 250 people. 

The university will also temporarily halt all plans for international travel outside of Canada. Any students planning to go on university-sponsored outbound international travel between now and the end of May will have their plans cancelled. This includes exchanges, co-ops, and conferences. 

Any trips by faculty or students that are not university-sponsored will not be affected. However, the university advises against all travel outside of the country at this time. 

The Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has asked that anyone who plans to travel outside of Canada to self-quarantine for 14 days following their trip. This includes people that are already abroad.

The province, however, did not mandate whether  schools and universities need to be cancelled. 

“Our schools and our workplaces are operating safely, and we want to keep it that way,” Dr. Henry said.

Some UVic students would like to see all classes cancelled due to the coronavirus, and have started a petition demanding the university do so. At the time of writing, the petition had over 3 200 signatures. 

Numerous universities in eastern Canada have cancelled classes — including University of Ottawa, Carleton, Laurentian University, and McGill — and over 85 universities in the United States have moved classes online. 

All elementary, middle schools, and high schools in Ontario will close for two weeks following their March break, which begins on March 14. 

There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at UVic, and the campus remains open at this time.

One student, Caleb Laranjeiras, looked into the wait times at testing clinics today and was told they were between three and five hours. Although people can call into 8-1-1, the lines have been very busy. 

UVic assembled an academic Response Coordination Team (RCT) in January to monitor the outbreak and implement strategies so that COVID-19 does not disrupt academics. Additionally, an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) was formed to plan and respond in coordination with local health officials.

Health officials are encouraging people to wash their hands and consider social distancing, and for anyone exhibiting symptoms to stay home. For more information, please visit the B.C. Centre for Disease Control website.