Oxford colleges have been asked by the university to make accommodation available for students who cannot return over the Easter vacation due to the spread of coronavirus. The university has always requested that they “consider sympathetically any requests for vacation residence grants”.

New College and Magdalen are among the first of the colleges to offer free vacation residence to affected students. During a JCR meeting at New College, JCR President Josh Atwell announced a meeting for those who wanted to ask questions about the available accommodation.

He added: “On a similar note, there have been some instances of people being mistreated or making jokes about this subject (the coronavirus).

“This is a sensitive topic for people with family in affected regions, so please avoid that and call out people who are being insensitive on the topic.”

The university gave advice to students who may be affected on its website, saying: “If you live in Mainland China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau), you are advised not to return for the vacation. If you are travelling to, or have family travelling from, other affected areas, you should consider the risks of exposing yourself and the University to the virus, and speak to your college in the first instance if you need any further advice.”

Oxford University has also advised students and staff to heed the guidelines provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office regarding travel to affected areas. Staff have been informed that they must revisit their risk assessment with their manager. They add: “All travel on behalf of the University must go through the University’s risk assessment process outlined on the Safety Office website.”

Vice Chancellor, Louise Richardson, sent an email to Oxford students on the 3rd of March outlining the university’s response to the outbreak. She said: “The University and the Conference of Colleges have been working closely together and co-ordinating all our activity. We have identified facilities that we will be able to use should we need to provide central testing or isolation facilities, and Colleges have been working with their students to make arrangements for those who are unable to travel home for the holidays.”

She went on to say: “This is a time for us to come together as a community and to support not shun one another. We are a truly global institution and delight in bringing together diverse cultural norms, and we are, above all, a community of scholars and students coming together to learn, to research and to improve the world around us.”