UCL News


Advice for staff and students who may have concerns about the outbreak of coronavirus

14 February 2020

Find out more about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), its symptoms, and what to do if you are planning to travel to affected areas.

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UPDATE: We are aware that a number of screenshots that appear to show a doctored UCL website are circulating on some social media channels. These images are fake and contain false information. UCL treats false reporting about the coronavirus very seriously and will take appropriate action against any individual found responsible.

Please refer to this page for accurate and updated advice and guidance about the coronavirus and UCL’s response. 

Most cases of the virus have occurred in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China where it originated, but cases have also been confirmed in other areas of mainland China and Hong Kong, as well as the UK, Japan, Australia, the USA and Europe. 

UCL is monitoring the situation closely and is in regular contact with Public Health England, so we have the most up-to-date advice and information for our staff and students. Please see their website for more details. We are also supporting UCL staff and students who are abroad in affected areas. 

On 1 February 2020, Public Health England advised an increase of the UK risk level from low to moderate. This does not mean they think the risk to individuals in the UK has changed, but that government should plan for all eventualities. Young, healthy adults are much less likely than elderly people or those with chronic illness to develop serious disease if infected.

Please read our FAQs on the coronavirus below. We will update this page with the latest information as it becomes available.

What are the symptoms of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)?

The majority of cases report mild illness and symptoms include fever, cough, chest tightness or shortness of breath.

What should I do if I think I may have the virus?

Anyone with symptoms, and who has either visited China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau in the last 14 days, or come into contact with someone who has, should immediately stay indoors and seek medical advice by calling their GP or the free NHS 111 telephone helpline with details of their travel history. You should follow this advice even if your symptoms are minor. 

What should I do if I have recently travelled to Wuhan City or Hubei Province?

Public Health England is advising people who have returned from Wuhan City or wider Hubei Province in the last 14 days to stay indoors and avoid contact with other people (as you would with other flu viruses). Please also contact NHS 111 to inform them of your recent travel to the city. Please follow this advice even if you do not have symptoms of the virus.  

If you develop a fever, difficulty breathing or a cough, please follow the advice above and do not leave your home until you have received medical advice.

What should I do if I recently travelled to Wuhan City or Hubei Province and I am required to stay at home?

Students who are required to stay at home should contact their department by telephone or email as soon as possible, so staff can work out a plan to support them during the quarantine period.

UCL will not penalise you for self-quarantining. Where this impacts on assessments, students should apply for extenuating circumstances with their travel ticket or itinerary as evidence.

Students with a Tier 4 visa should also submit an authorised absence form with their travel itinerary attached. Students residing in UCL student accommodation should also inform the Warden by calling the duty mobile at their residence.

If you need to self-quarantine and you want to talk to someone about practical issues like arranging food deliveries, please call the duty mobile for your residence for help organising this safely.

I’m worried about my Tier 4 visa if I self-isolate or return to China. Who can I speak to for advice?

If you have any concerns about your visa please contact the Student Immigration Advice team by emailing visaadvice@ucl.ac.uk

What should I do if I have recently travelled to other areas affected by the coronavirus?

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office have issued this advice for travellers who have returned to the UK from the following areas:

  • China
  • Thailand
  • Japan
  • Republic of Korea
  • Hong Kong
  • Taiwan
  • Singapore
  • Malaysia
  • Macau 

If you have returned to the UK from any of these areas in the last 14 days and develop symptoms of cough, fever or shortness of breath, you should immediately stay indoors, avoid contact with other people and call NHS 111 for advice and to inform them of your recent travel to the country. 

You should follow this advice even if your symptoms are minor.

I’m currently in Hubei province or elsewhere in China – what should I do?

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office advises that UK nationals in Hubei province should leave if they are able to do so, with most countries issuing very similar advice to their own nationals. The Chinese government continues to impose further restrictions on movement within China and it may become harder to leave China over the coming weeks. British nationals in Hubei province can contact the British Embassy for assistance by calling the 24 hour helpline on +86 (0) 10 8529 6600 or the FCO in London on (+44) (0)207 008 1500.

UCL staff and students who feel that they may want to leave China soon should consider making plans to do so before any further restrictions may be imposed. They should contact UCL’s insurers Drum Cussac by calling (+44) (0) 208 608 4100 or emailing rsa@healix.com to assist them in returning to the UK.

The University of Hong Kong has advised that those not in Hong Kong should not return at this time. Classes have been suspended until 17 February.

I’m currently in another affected country – what should I do?

UCL staff and students in other affected countries should register with their local consulates or embassies, who can then advise on any updates and evacuation plans for respective nationals.

I’m currently in China or another affected country and worried I won’t be able to attend UCL classes. What should I do?

UCL is working with UK Visas and Immigration and will share more information with affected staff, students and applicants when this becomes available.

I’m planning to travel to China or another affected country – what should I do? 

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office advises against all travel to Hubei province and against all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China (not including Hong Kong and Macao). On 23 January 2020 the Wuhan authorities closed all transport hubs including airports, railway and bus stations. Travel restrictions may be in place in other areas of China and nearby countries.

Any student or member of staff currently in or planning to travel to China in the immediate future should check the advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Travel Health Pro for updates. 

What precautionary measures can help stop the spread of the virus? 

Public Health England recommends using good hand, respiratory and personal hygiene. Coughing and sneezing should be into tissues that are promptly disposed of in bins. Hands should be washed with soap and water or using an alcohol hand rub even if hands are visibly clean. Please avoid visiting animal and bird markets or people who are ill with respiratory symptoms. 

I have experienced bullying or abuse related to coronavirus, or I’m worried about family and friends in affected areas. Who can I talk to?

UCL does not tolerate abuse of any kind within our community. Please report this directly to the police. If you are a UCL student or member of staff, you can also use our online Report + Support tool.

UCL's Student Mediator provides a safe, confidential and non-judgemental space for students to discuss any concerns they may have. All students can also access support quickly at Student Support and Wellbeing’s drop-in sessions, which take place on Floor 1 of the Student Centre every week day that UCL is open. No prior appointment is needed.

Our team also works in partnership with Care First, an independent advice and counselling service, to provide students with telephone and online support in the evenings and during weekends, bank holidays and UCL closure periods. To find out more and access support, please visit the SSW website, contact us through askUCL or call +44 (0)20 7679 0100. 

Staff can access Care First’s employee assistance programme 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. To discuss any issues that concern or affect you, please dial Care First’s Freephone number 0800 197 4510. If you are outside the UK, telephone +44 (0)1452 623246.


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