By Hayley Hands
Travel restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus have caused concern about the ability of some students to commence their studies in Semester 1. The Morrison Government will deny entry to non-Australian Citizens arriving from mainland China in an attempt to contain the coronavirus.
Arrivals have not been permitted entry into Australia from 1 February. Exceptions are made for Australian citizens, as well as permanent residents and immediate family, legal guardians or spouses. Those who have visited China have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days after their arrival in Australia.
The first cases of the virus were detected in the Chinese City of Wuhan, located in Hubei Province. At time of writing, 12,000 cases of the virus have been confirmed internationally, with 10 cases reported in Australia. The virus causes flu-like symptoms including fever, coughing, soreness of the throat, and shortness of breath.
Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt stated that these travel restrictions will have “a substantial impact for our community”, and that ANU will “work as a community” to support those affected. Schmidt also called for empathy, stating that “viruses don’t discriminate… and neither do we”. Approximately 59% of the University’s international students are originally from China.
ANU has since released a series of email updates to students and staff. These emails provided students with advice regarding the prevention of the spread of disease, self-isolation for those who have recently returned from mainland China as well as support services available to students. Schmidt has also stated that the university will “do all we can to minimise the disruption to affected students”. The University will be “directly in contact” with students who have been impacted.
ANU plans to provide a single studio apartment with a self-contained kitchen and bathroom for on-campus residential students who are required to self-isolate.
ANUSA General Representative and ANU Queer* Department Deputy Officer Vincent Lee told Observer that he has been “personally affected” by the travel ban. He had intended to fly back to Australia on 2 February, but the restrictions were implemented “so quick that [he] barely [had] time to react”. Lee stressed his worries regarding his studies, as the possibility of missing a semester “may pose a lot [of] hardship” with regards to completing his degree.
He says that whilst the ANU’s response was “heartwarming”, it was also “a bit vague” and that he is unsure “what [he] should do with [his] student visa” and “upcoming study [in] semester 1”.
Mian Xu is another student in a similar circumstance. Xu is from Nanking, approximately 500km away from Wuhan, a city he describes as “barely affected by the coronavirus”. While Xu hopes “the ban on travellers can be lifted”, he fears that the virus may not be contained within the fortnight, leading to the ban being “prolonged indefinitely”. Xu states that if this is the case, he hopes the “ANU can provide [us] with a way to attend class online”. Xu also commended Schmidt’s response to the situation stating that it was “a guarantee that ANU will not discriminate against my compatriots”.
Xu also called for more support from residences and halls, saying that he “humbly suggest[s] that residences … consider lowering the rent for Chinese students if the ban lasts” because “it is really annoying for Chinese students staying on campus to pay for our empty dwellings”.
Lee says that his residence, Unilodge, has not reached out to affected students “as far as [he] knows”. He is also under the impression he will need to continue paying rent in order to keep his room upon his return, a move he described as “very classic Unilodge”.
ANUSA and the ANU International Students’ Department have been working on issues related to the travel ban “around the clock”. An official statement is expected tomorrow morning. A recent update on the International Students’ Department Facebook, made by International Students’ Officer LC Yip reminds everyone “to be mindful of their words”, as “xenophobic or racist remarks are NEVER acceptable”. If students have experienced “discrimination of any kind”, and require support, they can contact Yip at [email protected] for assistance.
ANU has established a hotline for students requiring support on this issue, which may be reached at 1800 620 032 domestically, and +61 2 6125 7257 internationally. The line is open between 9am and 4pm AEDT.
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