Canada revised its travel ban on the entry of foreign nationals last month to make exceptions for international students with permits issued before March 18.
“Universities across the country are…taking strong measures to encourage physical distancing”
At the University of Victoria in British Columbia, self-isolating students are being moved temporarily to private rooms with either private or specially designated bathroom facilities.
The university is also supplying masks, providing meal deliveries three times a day and encouraging students to stay in contact with friends and relatives digitally.
Similar measures can be seen on campuses across the country. The University of Alberta, Ontario Tech and the University of Calgary are also relocating students and trying to reduce the density in residential buildings and providing helplines for students in self-isolation.
“Universities across the country are following the directives of local, provincial and national health agencies and taking strong measures to encourage physical distancing,” Universities Canada president, Paul Davidson, told The PIE News.
“They are also reinforcing that all students, faculty and staff must self-isolate for 14 days if they are returning from travels, as directed by the federal government.”
The measures being taken are, however, limited to students staying in on-campus residences.
According to Statista, in 2018 only 15% of international students in Canada lived in university residences. Almost two-thirds rent accommodation either alone or with others, meaning that they are largely responsible for making their own arrangements.
“We’ve been assisting students who are returning and giving them the public health directives to self-isolate. We don’t expect these students to be returning to campus,” a spokesperson from the University of Waterloo told The PIE.
“For any of our students still in residence, about 900, we’ve put in social distancing measures and have space available for students should they need to self-isolate, which hasn’t happened at this point.”
Janice Johnson, assistant dean of Students (Residence) at the University of Alberta told The PIE that the health, safety, and well-being of students is the main priority.
“We understand that this is a difficult time for our students which is why we are continuing to provide support and resources for those who remain in our residences,” Johnson said.
“To maintain the safety of our residence community though, we are unable to accommodate temporary housing for non-residents who have been directed to self-monitor or self-isolate by Alberta Health Services.”
Johnson added that current residents who need to self-isolate are being accommodated and supported on a case-by-case basis, including current residents who have returned from travel abroad.
“We do want to provide support for those students who may be unable to return to their homes though, including our international students who may be unable to go home over the summer because of the COVID-19 outbreak in their home country.
“We understand that this is a difficult time for our students which is why we are continuing to provide support and resources”
“This is why our residences remain open, and why we are offering available temporary and long-term housing options to our students who may normally live off-campus,” she added.
Many international students have chosen to stay in their home countries and continue studying online rather than return immediately to Canada, despite measures put in place to support international students who are concerned about finances and visa issues.
The conditions which require self-isolation have also been expanded over the last few days. Several provinces, including Manitoba and Nova Scotia, have begun asking domestic travellers entering from other parts of the country to take the same measures as those returning from abroad.
Further north, travel bans are in place (with exceptions for residents and critical workers) in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.
There have also been reports of people being turned back while trying to enter Quebec and Prince Edward Island, who have restricted entry to “essential travel” only.
Universities have additionally encouraged students to go online to avoid feeling completely isolated.
At the University of Toronto, one theatre and drama studies student has been performing Shakespeare via Zoom through an initiative called The Show Must Go Online, while others have been sharing advice from astronauts on how to cope with self-isolation.