It is clear that the COVID-19 virus is spreading to many countries outside of China and the Australian Government has now initiated the implementation of its Coronavirus Emergency Response Plan. The Prime Minister has been clear that the Government expects the World Health Organisation will shortly declare COVID-19 a pandemic.
A pandemic response in WA would be led by the Department of Health and Curtin would of course cooperate with any directions issued by the Department. We have already advanced our own pandemic preparation plans and the declaration, if it comes, is not expected to affect daily business on the Perth campus at this stage.
The Government has also extended the travel restrictions denying entry to Australia by foreign nationals from China, or who have transited through mainland China, by another week to 7 March. The bans will be reviewed on a weekly basis.
The University is continuing to communicate directly with our students affected by the restrictions, offering online units where possible and also other support and encouragement including counselling. We are also aware that some of these students are experiencing difficulties accessing their studies online and we are exploring several options and platforms to identify solutions. We may also offer intensive study units for affected students once they are able to come to campus.
More broadly, we recognise the challenges these students are dealing with and accordingly an Access Support Scholarship will be available for all enrolled undergraduate or Master by Coursework students who do not arrive in Australia before March 9. Eligible students will receive a one-off fee remission of $1,500 and we are now writing to advise them of these arrangements. We will also advise them of other support available including a waiver on penalties for late payment of fees and an extension of the last date for withdrawal without academic or financial penalty.
The virus outbreak has been a very difficult matter for the University to deal with and I am very appreciative of the ongoing work of staff from across the institution in this regard. My thanks for the extraordinary efforts of all involved.
Professor Deborah Terry AO