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Duke bans University-funded travel to China amid coronavirus spread

University-funded travel to China is being curtailed in light of the ongoing spread of the novel coronavirus, Provost Sally Kornbluth and Chancellor for Health Affairs A. Eugene Washington wrote in an email to the Duke community Tuesday evening.

"The U.S. State Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended that all non-essential travel to China be deferred due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus," they wrote in the email. "Therefore, effective immediately, Duke University is restricting all university-funded travel to China."

The restrictions apply to faculty, staff and students from Duke Health and Duke University, but do not affect personal travel. Duke employees who must travel to China for clinical work or research should contact their dean or department chair for an exception, Kornbluth and Washington noted.

"We urge any individual planning a trip to China to carefully review the latest health information from U.S. government sources, and be aware that anyone returning from China may be subject to screening and quarantine guidelines in place at the time," they wrote.

Duke Kunshan University has shuttered its doors for an extended period of time after the Lunar New Year, as classes have been canceled until Feb. 17. Students from areas not affected by coronavirus are being encouraged to return home, and the University has offered a $1,000 stipend to cover travel expenses.

There have also been issues with DKU graduate students obtaining passports to return home, as some are still in the hands of the Chinese government, WRAL reported.

"Because the government offices were closed for the weekend and the holiday, several of them were not able to get access to their passports," Michael Schoenfeld, Duke's vice president for public affairs and government relations, told WRAL Monday. "We expect, if that has not been resolved already, it’ll be resolved in the next day or so." 

An individual who had traveled to China was also admitted to Duke Hospital Jan. 23 with respiratory problems resembling coronavirus, but doctors soon determined that the patient did not have the virus.

The Hubei province in China, where the coronavirus originated, was added to restricted regions list Jan. 26, according to Duke's website on coronavirus response.

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