Message to staff on 5 February 2020

Message regarding the coronavirus outbreak, sent to all staff at 9.00am on Wednesday 5 February 2020.

Important update on the coronavirus outbreak

As I’m sure you’re aware, the NZ Government has imposed temporary entry restrictions on all foreign nationals travelling into New Zealand from, or via, mainland China. These restrictions took effect on Monday 3 February and will be in place for up to 14 days, with reviews every 48 hours. NZ citizens and permanent residents (and their immediate families) returning from China will be able to enter New Zealand, but are required to self-isolate for 14 days on their return. You can read the full statement here.

Obviously, this is a very serious step with huge implications for NZ universities, which we are urgently working to assess. It creates high levels of uncertainty and anxiety for our students from mainland China in particular, who were planning to return to New Zealand for Semester 1 and are now unable to come here.

The University will do everything in its power to ensure that none of our students is disadvantaged by this situation. We are working hard to identify options for personalised study plans for anyone who can’t be here for the start of term. This is a very complex process, and we don’t have all the answers yet.

I am also aware that this situation impacts heavily on you, our staff members. We will ensure that you are kept well informed on developments as they unfold and any decisions made by the University in response. Regular updates and FAQs will be posted on the main University website.

We are certainly not underestimating the impact of the virus, but I do urge a sense of perspective. To date, there have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus in New Zealand, and the Ministry of Health assesses the likelihood of a widespread outbreak in New Zealand as low.

For an excellent and informative insight into the reality of the coronavirus outbreak, I recommend you listen to Kim Hill’s interview on the weekend with Dr Chris Smith, consultant virologist at Cambridge Uni. You can listen to it on Radio NZ.

The University also has its own research and medical experts on this subject, who are busy providing insights and advice to NZ and overseas media (Spinoff, Newsroom, Psychology Today, Newsroom 2).

Finally, it’s important to recognise that this situation affects us all, not just our international students. We should remind ourselves of a powerful message I heard earlier today that ‘viruses don’t discriminate, and nor should we’. I would hope to see tolerance and compassion from everyone in the coming weeks and months. Please look after yourselves, and look after each other.

Professor Stuart McCutcheon