By Mustakim Hasnath and Charlotte King
On March 11, Cardiff University students in the School of Chemistry received an email from their School informing them that they are following the Government’s advice with regards to the Covid-19 outbreak and that they “are planning for a range of scenarios including University closure.”
Towards the end of last week, the British Government announced that the UK was officially entering the ‘delay’ phase in the battle against Covid-19, moving away from trying to contain the spread of the virus and are now aiming to delay widespread infection.
At the same time, more and more countries began to introduce lockdown measures in an attempt to protect their citizens from the illness. Ireland, Denmark, Austria and Israel closed all schools, Italy tightened its lockdown regulations, and the US announced it is refusing entry to all travellers from Europe bar the UK and Ireland.
However, despite increasing school closures across the continent, the British Government have made it clear that they do not plan to close schools or universities at this stage.
Colin Riordan, Cardiff University’s Vice-Chancellor, reached out to Cardiff University students last week to update them on the University’s response to the developing Covid-19 outbreak. “As some of you will be aware”, Riordan stated, “a University-wide contingency group has been meeting regularly since this issue first emerged in December.
“I want to assure everyone that the safety of our students, staff and the wider Cardiff community is paramount. With that in mind, we should continue to conduct our daily lives in light of the advice we are receiving from public health authorities.”
The University is reportedly already working through “various scenarios” which include “alternative forms of working and teaching.”
Cardiff University has currently cancelled or postponed all student field trips and placements outside of the UK. Students on placement in international locations will be contacted and offered support if they wish to return home, all work-related travel outside of the UK for staff-members has been postponed, and those organising large-scale conferences and events are encouraged to consider virtual alternatives.
Then, on March 15, students in the School of English, Communication and Philosophy (ENCAP) received an email informing them that the School will be moving to remote teaching after receiving instructions from the Vice-Chancellor.
When considering the response from universities across the entire country, a mixed picture emerges. Last Thursday, Durham University announced that it was cancelling all classroom lectures and teaching will be conducted online. Manchester Metropolitan University also announced that it is ending face-to-face lectures a week before the end of term with no contact teaching taking place after March 27, but have said that if the Government requests lectures to end earlier then the University will comply.
On Thursday last week, after a meeting with the Government’s emergency COBRA committee, Boris Johnson urged anyone with Covid-19 symptoms, however mild, to stay at home for seven days in what is described as “the worst public health crisis in a generation.”
Earlier last week, vice-chancellors from universities across the UK informed the Government that shutting universities down completely would be “impossible” because there are thousands of students across the country who have nowhere else to go.
A Cardiff University spokesperson told Gair Rhydd: “The safety of our students, staff and the wider Cardiff community in which we live is paramount. Since Coronavirus first emerged, the University’s Incident Response Team has been closely monitoring the situation as it unfolds” and “for those following Government or University advice to return [from abroad] we will ensure that that there is no financial disadvantage”.