Image description: In an all-blue, graphically-created image, microbes suspend are suspended in space.

 

By Courtney Withers

 

Only in the past few days have I come to realise how serious the COVID-19 virus outbreak in Australia really is.

 

Of course, we all made the odd joke about Coronavirus when it first broke out (surely there can be a non-alcohol related name). But increasingly, it’s seeming more and more a humourless event.

 

It’s a confusing time for everyone, and the fear of the unknown is still pertinent. I’m not here to sensationalise the reporting of Coronavirus any more than has already been done. Rather, I want to fill everyone in on what’s happening, and where it leaves UWA students.

 

UWA emailed students on Monday evening with their response to the situation, and the new Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jane den Hollander, stated the reasoning behind the decisions, and how they will be enforced on campus.

 

“As you know, today there is still no known community-based transmission of the virus in WA. We also know that we in the university sector use research, evidence and facts to inform our decisions,” Vice-Chancellor den Hollander said.

 

“During this next week, we are using the information and the time to plan and coordinate an orderly and considered approach to how we cope at UWA with any future increase in infection.”

 

The announcement from the Federal Government last week that stated events with five hundred or more people will be cancelled from March 15 has already forced the infamous PROSH campus satire newspaper to be moved online and postponed until the 23rd of March.

 

Vice-Chancellor den Hollander also said that, in regards to other events on campus, all “externally facilitated public events on UWA campuses”, and all other regular UWA events, will be cancelled for the next month. When this ban will be lifted is not known at this stage.

 

The Vice-Chancellor also confirmed what the requirements for attendance for the rest of the semester are going to be:

 

“…the Chair of the Academic Board has today agreed to suspend the attendance requirements that exist in many units,” Vice-Chancellor den Hollander said.

 

“Your Unit Coordinators will be in touch in due course related to this and any other matters that impact your learning and progress.

 

“This decision remains in place until the end of Semester One.”

 

The email also stated that the University staff are currently planning for how they will continue their tuition obligations to students; how they will ensure that students are aware of the situation, and updated regularly; and what actions will need to be taken “should the University be required to suspend all campus activities”.

 

How or when COVID-19 will affect UWA’s campus is unknown, and it’s difficult to think about what life is going to be like now that attendance requirements are suspended.

 

Whatever happens with the virus and the decisions that are enforced on campus, it doesn’t change the fact that we can all still be students, and finish this semester with a red-hot go.

 

Yes, it’s going to be challenging if all classes are moved online, and it’s going to be something we’re not used to. One of the best aspects of UWA is its campus culture, and it’s sad to think that this could be temporarily taken away.

 

But the thing that gives me some clarity in all of this is that everyone is in the same position, and we can all help each other out during this weird and confusing time. Find the things that bring you joy, and make your routine as normal as you can. And for love of God, stop panic-buying toilet paper!

 

So, for now, all we can do is wash our hands, keep one-and-a-half metres away from eeach other, and pretend like nothing is going on. At least, that’s what I’ll be doing.

 

If you would like more information from the University regarding their decisions and response, head to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the UWA website.

 

If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by all of this (I know I am), please reach out to the UWA Student Guild’s student assist team, at 08 6488 2292.

 

Courtney gives you her best through an air-elbow tap.

 

Image courtesy of Pixabay