Image Credit: Patrick Hook-Willers
At 3:00pm today the national press gathered in the courtyard of Heslington Hall as the University gave a statement about the Coronavirus cases in York. Concern has risen over the past 24 hours after it emerged that one of the patients being treated in Newcastle was a student at the University of York.
In his statement the Vice-Chancellor said the following:
“As you are aware, Public Health England has informed us that one of our students has tested positive for the coronavirus. This is one of two individuals that have tested positive for the virus in the city. Our immediate concerns are with the affected student and family, along with the health and continued wellbeing of our students and staff and the residents and visitors of our city.
We understand that this development will cause concern and anxiety, but I want to reassure our students, staff and the wider community that we are working closely with the lead, Public Health England, and other agencies to manage the situation. We will continue to take direction from Public Health England. PHE has advised us that the risk of an infection being passed to others on campus is low. The University is open and will continue to operate normally.
I want to reiterate to students, staff, parents and visitors that we are working with our partners across the city to ensure that York and the University remain a safe and welcoming place to live, work and visit.
Let me say also that the University of York is very much an international community. We are home to students and staff from more than 140 countries. We are enormously proud that we are part of the city and of the warm welcome given to all of our community by the city. At times like this we all, staff, students and friends across the city pull together and support one another."
The Vice-Chancellor concluded by saying “we [the University] are monitoring the situation closely and will continue to provide as much advice, care and support as we can to anyone affected by this situation.”
As Professor Jeffrey and Samara Jones returned up the Heslington Hall steps a reporter from the BBC questioned whether management should have “told students before today?”. No answer was given, and no question and answer session was held.
Following the Vice-Chancellor’s statement, YUSU President Samara Jones spoke on behalf of YUSU and the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA).
“Our thoughts are with the student and family affected. The student community at York is a tight-knit global community and we will continue to support one another at this time. Many students will be affected in different ways by today’s news and we know that many have questions and feel worried.
The Students’ Unions (YUSU and the GSA) are working very closely with the University and collaborating with the health authorities to ensure that students and members of our community have up to date and accurate information as soon as it is available.
We would encourage students with any questions to keep an eye on the University website for any developments and key information. The dedicated University helpline will also remain open over the weekend.”
The University recognises the significant media interest in this situation but has appealed for all to “respect the privacy of those now under the care of the NHS, and our wider community of staff and students.”