SINGAPORE: The National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Singapore Management University (SMU) have suspended all student exchanges to Italy until further notice, in light of the COVID-19 situation in the country.
As of Wednesday (Mar 4), more than 2,500 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Italy.
In response to queries by CNA, an NUS spokesperson said on Wednesday: “As the number of COVID-19 cases in Italy has been growing, NUS has decided to suspend student exchanges to universities in Italy until further notice.
“The university is reaching out to affected students to provide assistance and support. Arrangements will also be made for students who are currently in Italy to return to Singapore as soon as possible.”
NUS had announced the suspension of student exchanges to Italy internally on Monday, via an email circular signed by Professor Bernard Tan, senior vice provost (undergraduate education).
An SMU spokesperson said that the university also has reached out to all affected students on exchange programmes in Italy, informing them to make arrangements to return to Singapore as soon as possible.
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“We appreciate that this will be disappointing news for students, but we have made a considered decision that has taken note of a range of emerging advice on safety in Italy. Our foremost concern is the safety and well-being of our students,” said the SMU spokesperson.
Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has decided to defer all non-essential travel to the whole of Italy, Iran and Japan until further notice, in addition to the current suspension of all trips to mainland China and South Korea, said a spokesperson for the University.
“The affected students currently in these countries are being asked to return to Singapore as soon as possible. They will receive the necessary support, and their respective schools will also advise them on the alternative arrangements that will be made available to them,” said the spokesperson.
This comes after Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong announced on Tuesday that Singapore will block entry and transit for new visitors who travelled to northern Italy, Iran or South Korea within the last 14 days.
The measure, which takes effect on Wednesday, is among the additional precautions Singapore is taking to help reduce the risk of imported cases.
All Singapore citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders with recent travel history to northern Italy, Iran or South Korea within the last 14 days will also be issued with Stay-Home Notices (SHN) from Wednesday.
Under the SHN, such travellers will have to stay at home at all times for a two-week period after returning to Singapore.
NUS said the university’s administration and faculties are exploring alternative arrangements for affected students, such as internships.
“Students may also apply for Leave of Absence for this semester and the University will assist them to secure modules in the summer semester, without incurring additional tuition fees,” said the NUS spokesperson.
SMU said it is “in discussions” with its partner universities in Italy to possibly offer distance learning as an alternative to students affected by this cancellation.
“We will continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 situation, take guidance from official advisories and adjust our measures accordingly.”
NUS, SMU and NTU had cancelled student exchange programmes to South Korea on Feb 25, after the Ministry of Health advised Singaporeans to avoid non-essential travel to the South Korean cities of Daegu and Cheongdo.