Coronavirus: NZ homestays reject Chinese students over virus fears

Young students wear face masks in the arrivals hall at Hong Kong's international airport on 22 January 2020. Image: Anthony Wallace/RNZ/AFP

By RNZ News

Some Chinese students are being rejected by their homestays in New Zealand over fears about the deadly coronavirus.

Infections from the novel coronavirus has spread to more than 8100 people globally and has claimed more than 170 lives.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Education advised schools on Monday to ask any students coming from China to stay away from school for two weeks.

READ MORE: RNZ Pacific updates on the coronavirus epidemic

A student liaison with the NZ Institute of International Education, Charm Money, said some homestays had asked students to find other accommodation over that period.

She said the students were either staying with friends or in other rented accommodation.

Some students in China are also delaying their travel to New Zealand after schools here advised them to wait for two weeks.

Auckland’s Elim Christian College principal Murray Burton said some students and staff had been asked to stay away from school for a fortnight.

Stuck in a cycle
“We’ve got upwards of 30 students … local students who will not be returning on Monday because they need to wait for two weeks. We’ve got five staff who will not be returning on Monday.

“They’re very cooperative and we’ll work our way through that.”

National Party’s education spokesperson Nikki Kaye told RNZ’s Morning Report she was also hearing about students stuck in a cycle of being rejected.

“You may have students who may have test results and they’ve been to Hubei province, being requested to go back in with those accommodation providers and then [being refused].

“I’m being briefed by the Ministry of Education today and so I have a range of other questions about their response and contingency planning.”

She said she believed that risk to other students could be mitigated through alternative accommodation or isolation beds.

“There’s a huge difference between a student from Hubei province that is displaying symptoms, has got test results potentially coming back, and then a family that may have rejected a homestay student because they’re scared or they may have young children.”

Kaye said she was referring any situation she was aware of directly to ministers.

This article is republished under the Pacific Media Centre’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand.

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