Top image: UNIS scooters at a standstill after all fieldwork is cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: Eva Therese Jenssen/UNIS.
Due to the coronavirus, UNIS has implemented several measures to prevent the spreading of the virus. Among them is cancellation of all on-campus teaching and fieldwork in spring semester 2020 and urging the students to go home.
19 March 2020
Press release from UNIS
UNIS now urges all students to leave the island and go home. The reason is first and foremost the vulnerability of Longyearbyen’s health resources in these trying times.
– Everyone must contribute all they can to prevent the pandemic from developing, for the sake of those most vulnerable. In emergency preparedness situation we now face, the whole of Svalbard is declared very vulnerable, says UNIS director Jøran Moen in a statement to the students.
The UNIS Board decided on 17 March, to avoid any unnecessary economic hardships for the students, that UNIS guarantees – for students travelling by Friday 20 March – reimbursement of travel expenses not covered by the student’s travel insurance or the student’s home university. UNIS will also cover 2 month rent deposits students incur for leaving early.
– We have encouraged students to go home as early as possible. The reason for this has to do with the societal consequences should corona infection be detected in Longyearbyen, explains Moen.
– The town’s health care system is very vulnerable, since the hospital is an emergency hospital with limited resources, should we get infected in town. The rescue service is likewise; people out on trips getting into accidents will increase the challenge for the local rescue service and the hospital. So our urge for students to leave the island, has to do with Longyearbyen being as well equipped as possible when we get the infection detected in town, Moen says.
As of Thursday afternoon 19 March 2020 there are no confirmed coronavirus cases in Longyearbyen.
Previous measures implemented
As the Government of Norway ordered all educational institutions in the country to close on 12 March at 18:00, UNIS gathered the crisis response team and started implementing measures. The Science Centre was closed down at 18:00 and staff is currently working from home.
On Friday 13 March UNIS decided to cancel all spring courses yet to start in the coming months.
On Saturday 14 March UNIS decided that all on-campus teaching and fieldwork would not be resumed for the rest of the spring semester, thus advising students to leave Svalbard. UNIS has worked on digital solutions for the students to follow online lecturing and complete their exams, so that they will not be delayed in their studies.