COVID-19 Testing Policy for International Students in the U.S., U.K., and Canada

As students around Hong Kong prepare for the start of term, it’s important to bear in mind COVID-19 requirements, whether you are studying abroad or at home. From testing and quarantine to class arrangements, we will help you prepare for the new academic year. (Research dates to 19/08/2020)

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For many university students and parents in Hong Kong, starting the 2020-2021 academic year will be significantly different from before, as COVID-19 continues to pose new challenges. Regardless of location, every university will have their own COVID-19 testing requirements and precautions for the start of term.  We rounded up the most popular and prestigious universities attended by Hong Kong students – in Hong Kong, UK, US, and Canada – and we have compiled their COVID-19 policy into various posts.

We selected five of the main universities in Hong Kong: Hong Kong University (HKU), Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)Polytechnic University (Poly U)Baptist University (BU), and City University (City U). The links included are to their COVID-19 FAQ page.

So far, none of these universities require negative COVID-19 test results before the semester starts, but some will require students to sign a health declaration form (such as CUHK). All five universities have prepared for remote instruction for the time being, minimising in-person classes whenever possible, and when the situation stabilises, they will adopt mixed-mode teaching and learning.

For this list, we have chosen ten of the most popular U.K. universities attended by Hong Kong students.All of the information in this section was sourced from the individual university websites, which are linked here. 

1. University of Oxford
2. University of Cambridge
3. Durham University
4. Manchester University
5. King’s College London
6. University College London
7. London School of Economics
8. 
Warwick University
9. Nottingham University
10. Exeter University

Method of Instruction

All 10 U.K. universities mentioned in the article have adapted a flexible teaching program. Students have the option to do remote learning, but in-person activities such as small-group classes and lab practical work may be offered once government restrictions allow.

Testing Requirements

None of the 10 U.K. universities mentioned in the article require COVID-19 testing before term starts. Should you develop COVID-19 symptoms, you are encouraged by the NHS to self-isolate for 14 days. In addition, everyone with symptoms should ask for a test online or call 119 to arrange a test. The U.K. Government has confirmed that there will be no charge made to an overseas visitor for the diagnosis or, if positive, treatment of this coronavirus.

Quarantine Policy

The U.K. government requires anyone arriving from overseas to self-isolate for 14 days, except from this list of exempt countries, which includes Hong Kong.

In this section, we look at the COVID-19 testing policies of:

1. Columbia University
2. Cornell University
3. New York University (NYU)
4. University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
5. University of Southern California (USC)
6. UC Berkeley
7. University of Pennsylvania (UPenn)

8. Johns Hopkins University (JHU)
9. Boston University
10. Georgetown University

This list of schools was based on a ranking of the top US schools for Hong Kong students, based on the Hong Kong student presence on campus and quality of education.

1.  Columbia University

Method of Instruction

Mostly online learning, but some departments may take a hybrid approach (mixture of remote learning and in-person class).Classroom capacity will be limited to accommodate physical distancing.

Testing Requirements

All students returning to campus over the summer (including those returning to campus housing) are expected to have a COVID-19 PCR test through Columbia Doctors/NYP at the Morningside location within one business day of their return to campus, and prior to resuming campus activities.

Quarantine Policy

 Students, faculty, and staff coming to Columbia from states with high prevalence of COVID-19 or from outside the U.S. are required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.


2.  Cornell University

Method of Instruction

Classes begin on September 2, taking a hybrid approach: combination of in-person and online learning. Remote learning for all students after Thanksgiving.

Testing Requirements
  • Prior to departing for Ithaca, all students are asked to quarantine for 14 days and, if possible, obtain a COVID-19 PCR test in their local area.
  • Once arriving in Ithaca, all students will be tested for COVID-19 as part of their re-entry to Cornell.
Quarantine Policy
14-day quarantine upon arrival


3.  NYU

Method of Instruction
  • NYU will support students through online learning, but small in-person classes on campus may be available. 
  • NYU will reconvene on campus for fall 2020:Undergraduate Move-In Days are Aug. 31-Sept. 1; Early Quarantine Move-In Days are August 18-19.
Testing Requirements

All students, faculty, and employees are required to get tested and submit verification before entering NYU buildings. The testing program and procedures refer to tests designed to detect the presence of a COVID-19 infection, not antibody tests.

Quarantine Policy

 Please be aware that in New York, local law requires all visitors traveling from outside the country or from restricted states to quarantine for two weeks.


4.  UCLA

Method of Instruction

UCLA is now planning to offer about 8% of fall term courses in person or using a hybrid model. Most instruction will be online learning.

Testing Requirements
  • Daily symptom checks are required for anyone coming to campus or living in on-campus housing.
  • Asymptomatic COVID-19 testing will be required.
  • Tests will be provided at no cost, and contact tracing protocols will be in place when anyone tests positive.
Quarantine Policy
 14-day quarantine upon arrival


5.  USC

Method of Instruction

According to the provost, all undergraduates are strongly recommended to start remote learning this semester.

Testing Requirements

Initial COVID-19 Student Test: Students permitted to live in USC Housing or who have an in-person class must present documentation of a COVID-19 test performed within 7 days before their first day on campus.

Quarantine Policy

14-day quarantine upon arrival


6.  UC Berkeley

Method of Instruction

Majority of instruction will be online learning.

Testing Requirements

Limited testing capacity on campus. PCR swab testing available for those who were in contact with COVID case, symptoms, campus program requirements.

Quarantine Policy

 14-day quarantine upon arrival


7.  UPenn

Method of Instruction

Online learning – according to a recent update (August 11), on-campus housing will not be available unless students are granted a housing exemption (such as international students). More information can be found here.

Testing Requirements
  • All undergrads must take a minimum of 2 COVID-19 tests before returning to campus.
  • All student arrival testing needs to be completed no later than September 2, 2020. Failure to complete testing in a timely manner will result in restrictions to access to campus and/or academic resources.
  • All international students and students arriving from “hotspot” states are required to take an additional third test within five to seven days of when their first on-campus test was administered.
Quarantine Policy
14-day quarantine upon arrival


8.  Johns Hopkins University

Method of Instruction

Fall semester online learning only, no on-campus academic or co-curricular activities.

Testing Requirements

Widespread screening of everyone who comes on site is not in place and currently is not planned. The University is evaluating options for testing students who will be residents of university-sponsored housing.

Quarantine Policy
 14-day quarantine upon arrival


9.  Boston University

Method of Instruction

Remote learning possible: the University launches “Learn from Anywhere” for Undergraduate Students.

Testing Requirements

The University will institute its own COVID-19 testing program (RT-PCR swab test)  for students, faculty, and staff later this summer. It will test community members upon reentry to campus in August and regularly throughout the year.

Quarantine Policy
14-day quarantine upon arrival


10. Georgetown University

Method of Instruction

All students will attend virtual courses through online learning. The university will introduce in-person course elements as soon as health conditions permit.

Testing Requirements
  • All students, faculty, and staff on campus must take a COVID-19 test. COVID-19 testing kits are free of charge in partnership with One Medical.
  • Students may schedule a test with a third-party provider, provided that their test follows the timeframe here. They will be responsible for the costs of a third-party test. 
  • Community Members will complete a COVID-19 test before first returning to campus or the Neighbourhoods as required by Georgetown. They will complete a second COVID-19 test within 24 hours of their first arrival to campus or the Neighbourhoods for the semester.
Quarantine Policy

14-day self-quarantine upon arrival if showing symptoms or travelling from a high-risk state.

In this section, we have chosen five of the most popular Canadian universities among Hong Kong students. All of the information in this section was sourced from the individual university websites, which are linked here:

1. The University of Toronto (U of T)
2. University of British Columbia (UBC)

3. McGill University 
4. Queen’s University
5. The University of Waterloo
 

All 5 schools have very similar plans for the fall 2020 semester, but before returning it is best to check with the school’s website for more specific information. 

Method of Instruction

Mix of online learning and in-person teaching: campus is open but remote learning is available. 

Testing Requirements

No COVID-19 PCR test required, but students are expected to self-monitor symptoms as frequently as expected by the specific school.

Quarantine Policy

According to the Canadian Government, anyone entering Canada from abroad must have a 14-day quarantine plan which includes a quarantine location, transportation, how you will access groceries, essential services, and medical care. This plan is mandatory even if you have no symptoms. 

Some universities, such as U of T and UBC, are providing locations and packages for students to self-isolate/quarantine. 

The best way to stay safe against COVID-19 is to be prepared: testing negative for COVID-19 will ensure peace of mind, as well as following health and safety precautions (social distancing, hygiene, quarantine when necessary). If you would like to get tested before school starts, click here to register and get your result within 24-48 hours.

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Feature image by Aubrey Odom