Risk of virus transmission from post-secondary student travel is low in Canada, experts say

Students returning from studying internationally must self-isolate for 14 days

Photo courtesy of Resi Kling on Unsplash
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By Safoura Rigi-Ladiz

The risk of COVID-19 spreading from post-secondary students returning from outside the country should be mitigated in Canada by self-isolation measures, according to an expert. 

Tom Koch, adjunct professor for UBC’s geography department and an expert in disease spread and social responses, said in an email to The Voice that the risk depends on the number of students returning from academic study and which countries they were in. 

The risk would be greater if they’re returning from, say Italy, than Denver, Colo. And remember: all those returning will be instructed to self-quarantine for two weeks. That should mitigate the likelihood of increased infections,” Koch said in his email.

Matthew Ramsey, the director of university affairs for UBC media relations, said the university is working hard to keep their students studying abroad informed.

“We are in really close consultation with Vancouver Coastal Health, B.C. Centre for Disease Control, the provincial medical health office, as well as the Ministry of Health on any decisions that we make,” Ramsey said. 

Ramsay said any UBC students studying abroad will be following the guidelines of the Public Health Agency of Canada.

“We’ve worked to contact our 32 students in China, 19 in Korea and 13 in Italy so that they’re aware of what going on, and they know that the resources are available to them on a case by case basis from UBC.”

The Voice reached out to Langara’s international education department for an estimate of how many Langara students were travelling home after completing semesters abroad, but did not hear back by press time.

Returning travellers should prepare for increased airport screening, self-isolation

In a statement posted on Monday, YVR said it is taking extra precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The airport warned that all incoming travellers must pass through “increased screening” from border security officers. Travellers will also need to self-isolate for 14 days if they are arriving from any location outside of Canada. 

In a media conference on Monday, Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said a 14-day isolation period is “incredibly important” for returning international travellers as it helps break virus transmission chains. 

“The vast majority of our cases have been imported cases. We now recognize that there are no safe places around the world,” Henry said. “People are being identified across the US, people are being identified in countries that may not have recognized they have transmission of this disease.”

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