Canada has released travel warnings in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak and now a university is following suit. UBC exchange students in China were advised to either withdraw from their programs and leave the country or to stay with their families within China until their host universities resume academic activity*. The university also asked students about to begin exchange in China to defer from their programs and travel plans.

According to Matthew Ramsey, a media spokesperson for UBC, there are 32 students total that have gone to China recently as part of various school programs.

There are 26 students officially on exchanges scheduled to start in February.

Ramsey said that students were advised of their options to either withdraw from their programs and return to Canada or to stay with family within the country and wait for their host universities to resume activities.

Currently, there are 12 exchange students staying with their families within China. There are also five co-op students and four of them are with their families in China.*

Ramsey emphasizes that it is their option whether they choose to leave or stay.

"We have informed students of their options to return to Canada and either defer or withdraw from their program, or wait with family in China until our partner universities are able to resume academic activity," Ramsey said to Narcity.

One student is currently in Hubei, the province where the novel coronavirus originated. However, they are not in Wuhan, said Ramsey.

UBC is not aware of any students or staff abroad that have been diagnosed with the virus, said Ramsey. 

"In line with the student safety abroad policy, all 32 students in active programs including exchange, co-op, and research programs in China have been notified of the Global Affairs Canada and World Health Organization Declaration," said Ramsey.

Global Affairs Canada released an advisory on Wednesday, January 29 for travellers to avoid all non-essential travel to China and to avoid all travel to the Hubei province.

"We have already advised students that haven’t travelled to China yet for their exchange to defer travel as advised by their host universities," Ramsey said to Narcity. "We are doing so based on the latest information from Global Affairs Canada."*

According to City News 1130, UBC has also discussed cutting off exchanges with Chinese universities.

"We have convened a group of stakeholders from across the university to plan and coordinate actions as new information emerges. At this point, we are not taking that action," Ramsey said to City News 1130.

The novel coronavirus has infected over 7,700 people worldwide and led to 170 deaths, reports MarketWatch.

There are a total of three presumptive cases within Canada, two in Toronto and one in Metro Vancouver.

Scientists worldwide are working on a vaccine. However, it could be up to a year before it sees public use.

*This article has been updated.

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