Message to ANU students regarding coronavirus

2 February 2020

Dear students   

I am writing with an update about coronavirus and the University's response to it.  This is a complex challenge and we understand many of you are worried about what it means for you. 

We are developing a considered response to coronavirus with two priorities in mind: ensuring the welfare of our community and minimising disruption to your studies. There is up-to-date information and FAQs on our website. 

Please note that there are currently no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the ACT and no ANU staff or students have presented to us with symptoms for the virus.  The advice of health authorities is that the risk is very low, particularly for young people.   

The safety of our community is always our highest priority and we are taking proactive and considered measures to ensure the wellbeing of all ANU students and staff.  We are working closely with ACT and Federal health authorities and following their advice. We are also taking additional advice from our own panel of ANU infectious disease experts. 

ACT Health advice is clear: anyone, regardless of nationality, who has travelled from or transited through mainland China from 1 February 2020 must isolate themselves for 14 days. For those who arrived before 1 February, self-isolation only applies to those who have been in Hubei or have been in direct contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus. 

Many of our students who left China before 1 February have already undertaken voluntary self-isolation, which is over and above health advice.  

We are screening on campus residential students on arrival and helping them with isolation, including making sure they are cared for and supported with kindness and compassion. 

Classes are not due to start until 24 February. This gives us plenty of time for anybody to complete their period of isolation.  

At this stage, we are providing on campus residential students who are self-isolating with a single studio apartment with their own kitchen and bathroom.   

If a student or staff member is not isolated, regardless of their ethnicity, it is because they do not need to be.  

The most useful thing we can all do to help prevent the spread of disease is to follow basic health precautions:   

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, carry hand sanitiser with you and use it often. We have placed more hand sanitiser across campus to assist; 
  • Keep a distance from sick people, especially if they have a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing;   
  • Monitor your health closely;   
  • See a health care professional immediately if you are start feeling unwell and share your full travel history with your health care provider immediately when booking your appointment; and   
  • Practice cough etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, wash hands).    

This is a distressing time for many of us. And for all of you who have been in Canberra these past few weeks, it has been a difficult summer. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. You can access support via ANU Crisis Support Line on 1300 050 327 or via SMS Text message service on 0488 884 170.  

It is important that we not only look out for ourselves, we look after each other. That's what we do at ANU.  

As VC Brian Schmidt noted in his message to all staff and students yesterday, viruses don't discriminate and neither do we. 

Professor Grady Venville  
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)