Should we close Universities due to coronavirus?

Fashion editor Phoebe Eyles discusses whether Universities should close in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Phoebe Eyles
8th March 2020
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Coronavirus is well on its way to becoming a global pandemic. As cases rise above 200 in the UK, many of us are panicking over the virus. Some schools across the country have closed due to cases of COVID-19, and are quarantining pupils who have returned from Northern Italy over half term. With such drastic measures in place, this begs the question: should universities be closing due to coronavirus?

Universities throughout the country have had suspected coronavirus cases, but there have been no confirmed cases at Newcastle. York was the first university in the UK to confirm one of its students had coronavirus. The University remained open as authorities tried to get in contact with those who had close contact with the individual infected. This would seem to suggest even if Newcastle had a confirmed case, there would be no need to shut down the whole University. Closing the institution would further induce panic among students. There is still a good supply of toilet paper in Jesmond supermarkets: I fear closing university due to coronavirus could change that...

There is less close contact at a University than at a school

It cannot be ignored that cases in the UK are still rising considerably and many schools with and without cases have closed. However, compared to University, schools are much more susceptible to the spread of diseases. In secondary schools, well over 1 000 pupils and all the teachers are confined to a small group of buildings from 9am until 4pm each day. For many students at University, it's impressive to have 100% attendance for nine hours each week. university campuses are large and often spread across a city, creating significantly less close contact across the entire student population than at a school.

There hasn't been a concentrated outbreak in any University city

Currently, there has not been a concentrated outbreak in any University city across the UK. If there was, it would be sensible for Universities to close if the city was experiencing a high number of cases. Nonetheless, at present, I do not see a reason for Universities to close as a precaution.

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