Passengers wait for their flights at the Marrakesh Airport on March 15, 2020. Several special flights departed Morocco, taking thousands of stranded Europeans home as the kingdom announced it was suspending all regular air traffic due to the coronavirus, authorities and airports said. 

With the US experiencing the effects of the COVID-19, otherwise known as the coronavirus, East Carolina University has advised students that were studying abroad to return home and avoid campus. However, exchange students across the globe come to study at ECU and at the end of the semester may face possible complications due to the spread of the virus when returning home.

According to a statement provided by Assistant Director for Education Abroad Kate Erickson, there currently is not a concern with exchange students returning home on time due to coronavirus. She said if the situation were to arise, the university would help to make arrangements for these students.

“As of now, that’s not a problem that we foresee. But if for some reason our exchange students were unable to return home, we would work with them and their home university to make arrangements for them until they were allowed to travel home,” Erickson said in her statement.

Jon Rezek, assistant vice chancellor for global affairs, said ECU is home to an estimated number of 16 to 18 exchange students. He said these students come from many places around the globe such as Australia, France, Germany, South Korea and the United Kingdom. Europe and South Korea have been placed at a level three so everyone must avoid non essential travel there and there are confirmed cases in Australia as well as they are a level two, enhanced precautions, at this time, according to the CDC.

These students plan to spend about three months at ECU before returning home while some might choose to stay for the whole year. These students will plan to return home at their normal time however at this time Rezek said he does not know for sure since the end of the semester is not quite at its end.

If the virus were to spread to these students' home countries the university will leave the decision to return up to the students, according to Rezek. He said if the students are not comfortable to return home they would work with their federal agencies to see if there was a way to extend their visa so they could stay.

“Going out for ECU students there would be certain universities that we (ECU) would not send them but in terms of returning home that would be up to the student and if the student would want to make an appeal to our federal agencies we would support that,” Rezek said.

The Greenville area is generally safer than most areas at this time in concern to the coronavirus, according to Rezek. He said students and parents have not yet expressed any concerns at this time.

Rezek said most of the virus precautions have been managed at the university level and global affairs has asked the university to send out messages to not travel outside the state. Washing hands, limiting social interactions and not traveling is recommended at this time for all students, faculty and staff. Since this virus may not affect many students, there is a chance of it being spread to someone that can potentially contract this virus more seriously.

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