Universities around the globe are canceling their study-abroad programs in an effort to avoid bringing the China-born coronavirus (also known as 2019-nCoV) to campus, The Associated Press reported earlier today.
Some institutions have taken even more precautions by banning all university-sponsored travel to and from mainland China.
“That door has been, if not slammed shut, certainly closed for the immediate future,” Michael Schoenfeld, Duke University’s vice president for public affairs and government relations, told AP.
Duke is one of the U.S. schools which runs a campus out of Wuhan, the Hubei province’s capital city — and the place where the current coronavirus outbreak originated. Hubei is also where 97 percent of all coronavirus-related deaths have occurred during this outbreak, and where 67 percent of all current cases are based, according to Bloomberg.
This move by universities affects not just hundreds of thousands of students worldwide, but also the countries that receive a large number of Chinese students annually, such as the United States and Australia.
The U.S. hosted 369,548 Chinese university students for the 2018-2019 academic year, a number that has grown by 276 percent in the last decade alone, as noted by Statista.
Out of the 12 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S., two are students — one from the University of Massachusetts at Boston and one from Arizona State, per AP.
Since the virus’ outbreak in December, American universities have been trying to evaluate the risk to students and to navigate the situation accordingly, particularly given the strong academic ties between the two countries.
However, it is believed that the cancellation of academic programs and exchanges furthers existing tensions between China and the United States. The two countries have enjoyed a strained relationship amid recent travel bans and trade wars.
“This doesn’t help the current situation, which is very tense right now,” Brad Farnsworth, vice president of global engagement at the American Council on Education, said to AP.
“This is a low point in U.S.-China higher education relations, there’s no question.”
Hubei, which is home to 50 million people, is currently under lockdown. The death toll attributed to the recent coronavirus outbreak has grown to nearly 500 over a two-week span from January 23 to February 4, Bloomberg reported.
“If the province was not sealed off, some people would have gone all around the country to try to get medical help, and would have turned the whole nation into an epidemic-stricken area,” Yang Gonghuan, former deputy director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told Bloomberg.
The coronavirus has currently affected over 25 countries and territories around the world, as The Inquisitr reported.