UC system suspends all nonessential travel to China amid coronavirus fears

Shoppers wear face masks to guard against spreading the coronavirus at a market this week in Macau, China.
Shoppers wear face masks to guard against spreading the coronavirus at a market this week in Macau, China.
(Getty Images)

The UC system suspends all nonessential travel to China due to coronavirus. All 10 of its campuses regularly send scholars there.

The University of California system said Thursday night it has suspended all nonessential travel to China due to the burgeoning coronavirus epidemic, a decision that could sharply affect its 10 campuses, all of which regularly send scholars to that country.

The decision, one also made by other American universities, could particularly pinch UC San Diego, whose faculty is heavily involved with Chinese partners in several fields, including medical research and teaching.

UCSD also is home to more than 5,600 Chinese students, the largest number in the UC system. It was unclear whether any of the students would be prevented from traveling back to China.

“The health and safety of our UC community is our No. 1 priority,” UC President Janet Napolitano said in a statement. Citing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the State Department, she said, “I am directing the UC community to temporarily avoid all nonessential travel to China.”

Napolitano’s statement was issued hours after the World Health Organization announced that the coronavirus epidemic, which surfaced in mid-December, has become a global health emergency.

Health officials say the virus has killed at least 213 people in China and infected more than 9,000 others.


The situation also became more worrisome on Thursday when health officials confirmed that the virus had spread from one person to another for the first time in the U.S.

The SARS-like virus has spread to more than 20 countries beyond China, including Los Angeles and Orange counties in the U.S.

At UCSD, the university sent messages to its 39,000 students last week warning them about the virus and telling them that they should immediately report to the student health clinic if they developed symptoms. About 15,000 of those students live on campus.

Napolitano moved to address that concern more broadly on Thursday night, saying in her statement, “Each campus and medical center should take immediate steps to develop a review and approval process to determine if travel to China is absolutely essential or if it can be postponed.”

It could take a while before the impact of the travel ban becomes clear.

On Thursday night, the San Diego Union-Tribune was unable to determine how many UCSD students or faculty members were already in China working or preparing to travel there.

China likewise sends many of its scholars to UCSD, which is home to a think tank operated by Fudan University of Shanghai. UCSD’s School of Global Policy and Strategy regularly hosts Chinese scholars.