SINCE the news of the Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak, The University of the West Indies (The UWI) has been closely monitoring the situation in China. The UWI has an administrative presence and 36 students enrolled in a BSc Software Engineering programme at UWI-China Institute of Information Technology (UWICIIT) which allows for two years of study at the Global Institute of Software Technology (GIST). At this time of inter-semester break, 28 students and one administrator are currently in Suzhou, China.
The UWI is working closely with GIST and other relevant local authorities in China to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff. It is also engaging global precautionary measures as well as the positions adopted by its stakeholder governments in relation to travel advisories and screening protocols.
The city of Suzhou is not within the epicentre of the virus. Nevertheless, the GIST campus remains closed until February 23 when the new semester is expected to begin. There is continuous on-site support on the campus. Medical and screening protocols have also been established.
The UWI leadership is in regular contact with GIST and is receiving situation reports. The University has also held meetings with the students and communicated directly with parents and guardians. The next meeting with parents and guardians is planned for Friday, January 31.
Simultaneously, the University is collaborating with regional entities and agencies including the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), CARICOM Secretariat, Ministries of Health and Foreign Affairs, and others in the regional management and response strategy. It has also convened a group of experts to examine the issues and help inform decision-making.
On Thursday, January 30, The UWI hosted a Vice-Chancellor’s Forum which offered informed analysis and perspectives. The forum’s programme included remarks from Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles and featured UWI health experts along with Dr Joy St John, CARPHA’s Executive Director. It was carried live on UWItv’s cable television channel and livestreamed on www.uwitv.org.