UBC says residences will remain open for students amid COVID-19 pandemic

While other Canadian universities have asked students to move out of on-campus residences to prevent the spread of COVID-19, UBC says its residences in Vancouver and Okanagan will remain open.

The university made the announcement in emails sent to students and on UBC Student Housing and Community Service’s website on Tuesday, March 17. According to numbers from the university, UBC has the largest on-campus residence system among Canadian universities with over 11,000 beds on campus.

“First and foremost, student residences currently remain open. We are committed to continuing to provide services and amenities that help create a healthy, safe and supportive community environment to the very best of our abilities,” reads a post on UBC Student Housing and Community Service’s website.

Students who are unable to leave will be able to stay in residence for the remainder of the term. Students who leave winter residence early by March 31 will be eligible for a refund “from the day they vacate their residence to the end of their contract.”

Additionally, students who move out of Orchard Commons, Place Vanier Residence or Totem Park early will receive a pro-rated refund on their meal plans.

The university is also encouraging students who think they will need to stay past the April 30 contract end date for winter residence to apply for summer housing as soon as possible.

In an additional email sent to students living in residence on March 17, UBC Residence Life encouraged students planning to travel home to book flights soon.

“Our colleagues in the travel industry inform us that travellers should seek the most direct flight possible and note that travel plans may change unexpectedly due to new restrictions or cancellations,” reads the email.

The email further details that WestJet announced it will be suspending trans-border and international flights beginning March 22. Air Canada also announced on March 17 that several routes had been suspended to mitigate the spread of the virus.

On March 18, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada was closing the border to non-essential traffic from the US, after announcing on March 16 that the border would close to all travellers except Canadian citizens, permanent residents and Americans.

On March 16, the university announced that in-person final exams would be cancelled and said students could make plans to travel home.

UBC says its decisions are guided by information from BC health authorities including Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, the BC Centre for Disease Control, the Ministry of Health and the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority.