Email to UCL Earth Sciences department sparks Coronavirus fears

An email sent by a member of UCL staff to the students and staff in the Earth Sciences department warning of a risk of Coronavirus. The email, published on the Facebook page UCLove, said that the department recently hosted a visitor from Wuhan, China, where the virus originated. 

The concern over the risk of the Coronavirus stemmed from the visitor having “cold-like symptoms (soar throat)” [sic] as well as the fact that “several others in the Dept (who were in contact with the visitor from Wuhan) have subsequently also developed soar throats etc and felt ill.”

However, as the email admitted, “there is no evidence at all that this was the Coronavirus,” and as all of them “seem to be recovering… the Coronavirus seems very unlikely.” 

The Facebook post said, “Most people are just getting a cold and need to calm it.” 

The number of Coronavirus cases in the world has risen, with 6000 cases confirmed in Mainland China. There are currently 91 confirmed cases outside of China. Many countries have enforced travel warnings for their citizens heading to China, and are flying their citizens back home where they will be “safely isolated.” 

However, there are currently “no confirmed cases in the UK or of UK citizens abroad, and the risk to the public is low.” 

Many East Asian people in the UK have been worried that the fear of coronavirus will increase hostility and racism towards those communities. Sam Phan wrote in The Guardian this week about this issue, suggesting that the panic has led to several rude and insensitive comments towards East Asians. 

UCL’s Media Relations team sent the following comment to London Student:

“We are providing clear advice to our students and staff about the coronavirus, which is updated regularly in line with the latest PHE and the FCO guidance.

Please see: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/2020/jan/advice-staff-and-students-who-may-have-concerns-about-wuhan-novel-coronavirus

This was not an official UCL communication. The correct advice has now been issued to all students in the department.”


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