Trinity CollegeLouis Ashworth

Varsity understands that Trinity plans to tell all undergraduate students that they must leave College for the Easter vacation, unless under ‘exceptional’ circumstances.

According to internal communication within the college, any student who is self-isolating “will be expected to make their own arrangements” because, the college says, they have “very limited capacity (which will be further reduced given staff illness) to provide additional facilities in the event of large-scale self-isolation”.

Only students currently self-isolating, who are unable to go to their home countries because of travel restrictions, and students who are care leavers or estranged, will be permitted to stay in college. Graduate students are also advised to go home to their families. Varsity has contacted the College for comment on their plans.

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Varsity believes that the college is still planning to host an Exhibition Dinner tonight, while all other college events are being cancelled from Monday. Trinity College have been contacted for further comment on this.

The current Master of Trinity, Professor Dame Sally Davies, is the former Chief Medical Officer for England and Chief Medical Advisor to the UK Government, and was involved in the UK government’s response to several public health crises, including the Ebola epidemics, flu pandemics, and the Novichok attack in Salisbury in 2018. Davies was succeeded by the current Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, last year.

Advice offered to Cambridge students in light of mounting concerns surrounding the UK’s new coronavirus outbreak has resulted in some colleges, including Magdalene, Selwyn, King’s, Newnham, and Pembroke, advising students to "consider how and when you may wish to go home and what you can take home with you."

College responses and guidance have varied widely, with Queens’ banning all non-essential public gatherings of more than 50 people, yet Girton continuing to host their Spring Ball this evening. Toope’s all-student email today said that “no university-wide policy of event cancellation is in place”, in line with PHE guidance, though some UK universities have already banned large public gatherings.

Students received their first communication since 5th March this afternoon from Vice-chancellor Stephen Toope, which stated that “no University-wide policy of event cancellation is in place at this stage”. While students were told that they “can expect to receive later today further specific advice from their Senior Tutors”, it remained unclear whether the University expects Easter Term to proceed as close to ‘normal’ as possible.

For international and EU students, the pandemic — the epicentre of which is now in Europe, the WHO has declared — causes particular uncertainty.

The email from Toope today added, however, that the “outbreak is likely to have serious consequences for the daily lives of our students and staff… from arrangements for lectures, seminars and examinations to the management of teams, the running of buildings or the staffing of laboratories and libraries.” It stressed that “as well as being patient, I ask that we all endeavor to be flexible, pragmatic, generous of spirit and kind.”

Toope also said that “other than students and staff returning home, I would strongly discourage overseas travel that is not essential”, and recommended that all “international travel plans” should be kept “under careful review.”

Although there have been disparities between colleges’ action to deal with students’ departures and possible cases of self-isolation, regarding exams and teaching, Varsity understands that Colleges, including Magdalene, Selwyn, King’s, Newnham, Pembroke, and Corpus, have sent the same statement on behalf of Tutors to their students.

The statement reassured students that “contingency plans exist for examinations”, and that faculties and departments are currently “working on the detail” of them, for students to be informed “of these details by 31 March.”

Although encouraging students to consider how and when they may wish to go home, the statement said: “If it turns out for any reason that you cannot travel soon, if Cambridge is your home, or if parents or family are self-isolating, then we are committed as a College to offering you support in College.”

Some colleges have provided more details about the support that will be provided in colleges. Magdalene has introduced a self-isolation buddy scheme, where all students who have applied for OTR must nominate two buddies whom they will virtually communicate with should self-isolation be necessary, and who can report to the porters if there is a concern about the health of the self-isolating student. Similarly, Jesus is also introducing a “phone and collect” food service in the café, for students who would like to avoid queuing.