By Tom Mitchell
Durham University will pay for flights home for students who were living in China, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.
According to the University’s official student registry statistics, there had been nine Durham students spending the third year of their degree studying Chinese language at a Chinese university. There are now no Durham students remaining in China.
On Tuesday, Durham University offered students the opportunity to return home. On Wednesday this advice was strengthened as the International Office “instructed students currently in China to return to the UK as soon as possible”.
There are now no Durham students remaining in China
The University has said it will meet the cost of a single flight to return to the UK.
The virus has caused 213 deaths in China, and there have now been nearly 10,000 confirmed cases, more than the number who were infected during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak in 2002-3. However, as things stand, the death toll of 213 remains lower than the 348 killed by Sars. The World Health Organisation has declared an international health emergency.
Some airlines, such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, have suspended all flights to China.
Alex White, a Durham student who had been in China, said he had initially planned to stay, but “with the imminent lock-down of movement within China, it soon became apparent that the best course of action was for me to leave the country, a decision echoed by the Foreign Commonwealth Office and Durham University.
“Durham University, both the Chinese Studies department and the International Office have been very helpful in the matter.”
The University has said it will meet the cost of a single flight
Another Durham student, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “The process of deciding to leave China was a very hard and emotional one.
“Leaving like this is so unexpected, and hard to get your head around. When packing, we had to decide what we should take home because we didn’t know when we were going back, and in that sense, it was emotionally very hard.”
This comes as the first two cases of coronavirus were recorded in the UK. According to the BBC, the patients had been staying in a hotel in Yorkshire, but were transferred to Newcastle last night to receive specialist treatment.
The University has advised all students to maintain good hand and respiratory hygiene. It has also said it will continue to monitor the situation and maintain contact with Public Health England.
Image by Durham University