COVID Hits Res Halls as In-Person Classes Resume
By Tom Kersten
On the day in-person classes are set to commence for the new year, several COVID cases have emerged throughout ANU’s residential halls, likely emerging from O-Week events. This morning, every student who lives on campus was asked to take a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) and submit their results to the University.
A University spokesperson has confirmed that in-person classes will still take place despite the confirmed COVID cases.
Those who test positive, and live in residential halls that do not meet the criteria of a “self-contained apartment” will be moved to a dedicated quarantine facility. To qualify as a self-contained apartment, the place of residence must feature individual bathrooms and kitchen spaces. For most students living on-campus this will mean their rooms do not qualify.
Observer understands the University is currently in the midst of setting up a second dedicated quarantine facility if the already established one exceeds capacity. The details of where the quarantine facilities are will not be published in order to protect the privacy of the students residing there.
The University will be providing all on-campus students who test positive to COVID-19 with food and access to wellbeing services throughout the duration of their quarantine period.
A University spokesperson estimated to Observer that over 2000 RATs were provided this morning to all ANU residential halls. Students were given these RATs for free and were not included as part of the packs all ANU students have access to.
Every student in residential halls will be required to complete a RAT every 48 hours.
Social events in residential halls will be placed on hold until 27 February, so the University has time to fully understand how many cases there are across the community. Other social events which aren’t exclusive to on-campus students will still take place in accordance with COVID safe guidelines.
On every course page on Wattle there will be an option allowing students to indicate whether they are positive to COVID-19. Course convenors were instructed before the semester began to prepare online options for these students.
The University spokesperson said those students who do test positive cannot attend in-person classes for the duration of their infectious period.
At Fenner Hall – where there have been a number of confirmed cases – students received an email on Saturday afternoon explaining that a number of confirmed cases had visited several Fenner O-Week events.
The email specifies that several cases were linked to certain events, including a Bar Night and Mooseheads Event.
Only a few hours after the initial email, Fenner residents received another email, outlining that all students were to be tested that night – with RAT tests provided by the University.
Burton & Garran Hall and Wright Hall residents received this same email, indicating that all students were to complete a RAT.
A student from Fenner, who wished to remain anonymous, told Observer they were disappointed in the University’s handling of the COVID situation.
“I feel like a lot of the communication about restrictions and particularly what happens to anyone testing positive has been quite delayed in coming out to residents”, they said.
The student suspects a lot of residents were hesitant to take self tests “because they don’t want to miss O-Week and they were unsure what would happen if they did test positive”.
“The lack of action being taken now, when we have confirmed cases, compared to last year is pretty concerning”, the student concluded.
“It is vital that we all stay healthy and keep the rest of our community safe”, the email reads.
The email notes that this type of mass testing could become a common occurrence, saying “we will be undertaking regular testing in our student residences throughout the semester”.
A University spokesperson described the rise in cases as “unsurprising” given many on-campus students travelled from interstate and overseas. O-Week also took place last week, which is likely responsible for a rise in case numbers.
“We are prepared for these cases and have processes and protocols in place… We are also well placed and prepared to help prevent further transmission in our residences as well as the wider community”, the spokesperson said.
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