Southern Cross University (SCU) has closed two of its campuses for the day following confirmation of the first coronavirus case in regional Australia.
- The Lismore and Gold Coast campuses are shut for the day
- A staff member who attended workshops earlier this month has tested positive to coronavirus
- The University is yet to decide when the campuses will re-open
The Lismore campus in northern NSW and Gold Coast campus in Queensland are in lockdown to stop any potential spread of the virus after a staff member tested positive.
The decision means an estimated 8,000 students will have to study at home but are not required to self-isolate.
A university employee from the Philippines attended a series of workshops at both campuses between March 2 and 6 before falling ill.
The male staff member returned a positive test for coronavirus on Tuesday but told the university his symptoms had subsided the previous day.
“He is a strong young man and said that by Monday he felt fine,” SCU spokesman Dean Gould said.
“From what we know he is recovering well [but] we know we had a staff member on campus with this highly-contagious virus so it’s a duty of care really that we want to intervene straight away and break that potential cycle,”
The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus continues its steady rise in NSW with the total reaching 65.
SCU has identified and contacted 45 people who came into contact with the man but only 16 of those people had frequent contact.
The campuses will undergo thorough cleaning today.
Acting director of the North Coast Public Health Unit Dr Jane Jeffs said anybody who had not been contacted had no reason to be concerned.
“Generally close contact is someone who has been face-to-face for 15 minutes or more,” she said.
She said the unit is awaiting further information from their counterparts in the Philippines to gain better insight into where the man visited.
Dr Tony Lembke who is a GP in Alstonville, near Lismore, lauded the university’s decision as prudent and sensible.
He said lockdowns should be the emphasis to stop the virus “cascading” through high-traffic institutions like universities.
But engineering student Jonathon Manitta said it was “a little bit scary” arriving to a locked-down Lismore campus this morning.
“How many weeks ago was it just in China and now all of a sudden it’s at Southern Cross Uni in rural Lismore,” he said.
“It’s unsettling, it’s eye-opening but we do have systems in place to deal with it so hopefully they keep us safe.”
Marine science student Sarah Daynes was pleased the university was being cautious.
“I’m not really too worried, it’s up to them, whatever they think is right. They’ve got to take in the safety of the students and that’s what they’re doing,” she said.
Southern Cross University’s coronavirus taskforce made up of senior executives will meet today to discuss when the university should re-open.
“There could be some online delivery of our courses but there’s a whole lot of other stuff that happens outside of the classroom that’s also suspended at the moment”, Mr Gould said.
Anyone who is feeling unwell has been asked to self-isolate and seek medical attention.
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