More than 100 students and teachers based in Wuhan, the city at the centre of the Chinese coronavirus outbreak, are due to arrive in New Zealand through university partnership programmes.
Many are expected to arrive in the coming weeks to study at Auckland University, Canterbury University and Massey University as part of longstanding agreements, and will be studying at campuses in Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington and Manawatū.
While it’s still early days, and there is nothing to suggest the students have been exposed to the dangerous infection, the universities are establishing early precautionary measures to protect their staff and other students.
Wuhan was placed under strict controls this week under order of the Chinese authorities, with train stations and airports blocked off to prevent the spread of the respiratory infection coronavirus.
More than 800 cases have now been reported around the world and while most cases are in China, others have been reported in Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam and the US. The latest count shows 25 people have now died in China.
The Ministry of Health says there are currently no restrictions on travel or border screening in New Zealand and the risk here is low.
They are in communication with the Ministry of Education about the students’ arrival.
The largest number of students are due to attend Massey University, who have several partnerships with education providers in Wuhan.
They are expecting between 50 to 70 students at their Auckland, Wellington and Manawatū campuses.
A spokesperson says Massey has developed a “working group” to monitor the situation and has alerted public health officials, to ensure staff are aware to watch for symptoms, and will be actively educating students about what to look out for.
Canterbury University is expecting 20 to 30 students from Wuhan to arrive in 2020 and another “half a dozen” teaching assistants.
They are “actively monitoring the situation” and say a small number of domestic students are also expected to travel to Wuhan through the partnership.
Auckland University is expecting three students to come to New Zealand after the summer break to resume studies and has established precautionary measures, including putting notices on doors.
They are also preparing their pre-existing isolation room, in case it is needed.
Canterbury’s Lincoln University was also expecting between eight to 13 students from the region to attend this year, but they were not part of a programme.
All other universities either had partnerships that did not involve students attending, or were not expecting students to travel from Wuhan this year.