All University of Auckland exchanges for Semesters 1 and 2 have been cancelled, as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide surged past 210,000 and the New Zealand government imposed more stringent travel restrictions.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on the 14th March that every person entering New Zealand from anywhere in the world, except the Pacific, would be required to self-isolate for 14 days, while cruise ships were banned from entering the country until at least the end of June.
As of the time of writing, there have been 217,004 confirmed COVID-19 infections.
New Zealand has twenty-eight positive cases as of last Thursday, with the majority previously having travelled overseas in Australia, Europe and North America. Twelve cases are reported in Auckland, while the rest are spread around the Waikato, Canterbury, Otago, Southland, Taranaki and Wellington regions.
France, Italy, Malaysia and Spain have been placed in lockdown, while travel restrictions were imposed all around the globe.
In an email sent to students on the 15th March, the University said all students who are on exchange overseas are required to return to New Zealand immediately, while those who are on personal travel overseas are urged to return to the country as soon as possible. This follows about 70 Auckland medical students being recalled from their overseas work placements earlier this month.
An university spokesperson told Craccum last Wednesday that out of 148 students on overseas exchange, 43 were returning or had returned, 40 were still deciding, and they do not know the status for the remaining 65.
They also said some of those who returned may be able to re-enrol into the semester in Auckland, while some will study online with their host universities. However, some will lose this semester altogether. One student who applied for a Semester Two exchange to Asia said the decision was disappointing because they lost an opportunity and funding to make it happen.
“I had a Prime Minister’s Scholarship Award ($6800) and the Exchange Award ($1800). Because of the limitations of my degree, I cannot defer my exchange and I have to withdraw. Some students have already made preparations for the exchange by shaping their degree. It will impact how their study will go.”
“Ultimately, I think it is a good decision by the university because the outbreak is out of control and 360 Internaitonal is giving enough support for students.”
One exchange student from the United States said they were returning home despite their home university having an option allowing them to apply to stay in New Zealand, saying they would rather be in isolation with their families than alone here.
The University has also confirmed to Craccum in a statement that “a number” of students have been tested for COVID-19, but all have returned negative at the editorial deadline.
The government announced last Monday gatherings of more than 500 people are banned to slow the spread of the virus and reduce the number of people affected. However, universities and schools were exempt, and told to await instructions from the Ministry of Education.
The statement said the university will follow the protocols of the Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) if there is a positive case and it has detailed contingency plans in place to respond to different situations.
As of last Thursday, it does not have plans to suspend in-person classes.
Craccum understands that the university has a number of lectures with more than 500 students enrolled, including first year law, health science and engineering classes. Several students have reported being told by teaching staff that faculties have begun to prepare for an online-only teaching environment.
However, graduation ceremonies in May have been cancelled. The university said more ceremonies will be added to the September graduations, and graduands can choose graduating in absentia in April or deferring their graduation to a later date.
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