Frequently Asked Questions

Please note: We are working to provide our community with accurate and reliable information quickly during this rapidly changing situation. These FAQs are being updated as quickly as we are able.


Residence / Homestay



Teaching and Learning

What is the Coronavirus? 

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Examples include Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus is a new strain that has not been identified before in humans. A new coronavirus was detected in December 2019 and named 2019-nCoV and is the cause of illness originating in Wuhan, China. This virus is now officially called COVID-19. 

What is the risk?

COVID-19 is a serious health threat, and the situation is evolving daily. The risk will vary between and within communities, but given the increasing number of cases in Canada, the risk to Canadians is considered high.

This does not mean that all Canadians will get the disease. It means that there is already a significant impact on our health care system. If we do not flatten the epidemic curve now, the increase of COVID-19 cases could impact health care resources available to Canadians.

There is an increased risk of more severe outcomes for Canadians:

  • aged 65 and over
  • with compromised immune systems
  • with underlying medical conditions

There are also increased health risks for Canadian travellers abroad. Because of these risks, the Government of Canada advises you to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice. This includes cruise ships.

It is important for all travellers to:

  • self-isolate for 14 days after returning from travel outside of Canada
    • some provinces and territories may have specific recommendations for certain groups such as health care workers
  • monitor your health for symptoms such as for cough, fever or difficulty breathing
  • wash your hands often for 20 seconds and cough or sneeze into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand

Do you think you might have COVID-19? Use our self-assessment tool to find out what to do.

The Public Health Agency of Canada continues to reassess the public health risk, based on the best available evidence as the situation evolves.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19? 

Symptoms are similar to several respiratory illnesses and include fever, dry cough, sore throat and headache. Most cases are considered mild to moderate with a subset experiencing more severe symptoms including shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.

Are there any presumed or confirmed cases of Coronavirus on campus?

At this point in time, VIU has no cases presumed or confirmed.

What can I do to protect myself? 

As usual, continue to practice good hand washing techniques and hygiene practices. 

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water is not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub to clean your hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or sleeve.
  • Dispose of tissues appropriately.
  • Avoid contact with sick people and stay at home or in your residence room if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms. 
  • Clean high-touch surfaces such as electronics, computer keyboards and phones frequently.
  • Practice social distancing – maintaining at least one metre distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid shaking hands.

For further information on how to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, visit HealthLinkBC or BC Centre for Disease Control.

What is VIU doing to prepare?

VIU has transitioned to alternate course delivery and assessment. To facilitate this transition, we are pausing all face-to-face classes for the week of March 16-20. VIU is not closing campuses at this time; all other facilities and operations, including the library and cafeteria, will remain accessible (for example, the Library Commons will remain accessible via student/employee card fob), although VIU is ensuring we are supporting our community to minimize the risk of transmission. Students can expect to hear from their instructors no later than Thursday, March 19, 2020, about how their specific programs and/or courses will be delivered. We want to reassure our students that they will be supported to complete their semester and to graduate on time. 

VIU has also cancelled all events and gatherings on our campuses, closed the VIU Gym and the university cafeterias. 

Employees are also moving to a work from home model if possible. If not, additional precautions are being implemented to support the provincial and federal governments' social distancing guidelines. 

VIU has plans in place, which tie into our emergency response structure, that cover illness outbreaks and will work with public health officials and will follow their lead and direction.

VIU is following all travel advisories and guidelines issued by the federal and provincial governments. More details in questions below.

What is VIU doing to help prevent the spread of illness? 

This website and FAQ has been developed to provide information on stopping the spread of any illness. We have additional resources on hand washing and cough/sneeze etiquette. We have  increased cleaning at our locations and we are following all provincial and federal recommendations including self-isolation guidelines and travel restrictions. As mentioned above, VIU is transitioning to alternate course delivery and assessment to help meet the provincial government's guidelines around social distancing.

Should I wear a mask? 

For general, day-to-day activities, there is no need to wear a surgical or N95 mask. BC CDC says:

  • Masks should be used by sick people to prevent others from becoming infected. A mask will help keep a person’s droplets in.
  • For a healthy person in the community, it is less effective to wear a mask as it can give you a false sense of security and you may touch your face more frequently to adjust the mask.
  • The most important thing you can do to prevent getting coronavirus is to wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face.

What if I have a non-medical question regarding COVID-19? 

The provincial government has developed a non-emergency line for those with non-medical questions related to COVID-19: 1-888-COVID19. This will be staffed from 7:30 am to 8 pm and offered in more than 110 languages. 

I have to self-isolate for 14 days. What do I do? 

Here are some guidelines from Island Health on what home isolation entails: 

Stay home:

• Remain in your home except to get urgent medical care.

• Do not go to work, school, or public areas (e.g. places of worship, stores, shopping malls, and restaurants).

• Cancel non-urgent appointments.

• Do not use public transportation or taxis.


Notify health care facilities before you visit:

• Call ahead before visiting a health care facility, and advise them that you have or are being tested for novel coronavirus.

• Remind health care providers when you arrive. This will help health care facilities to take steps to keep other people from becoming infected.


Monitor your symptoms:

• Seek medical attention if you have trouble breathing, are unable to drink fluids, or if your illness is getting worse.

• Notify health care facilities and health care providers (e.g. emergency departments, ambulance paramedics, doctor’s offices) before you visit.


Wear a face mask:

• Wear a face mask when you visit a health care facility.

• If your mask gets wet or dirty, change it.

• Face masks are available at the entrance to health care buildings. N95 respirator masks are not required.


Separate from household members:

• If you have a mask, use it in shared spaces or maintain a two metre distance from household members.

• Stay and sleep in a well-ventilated room separate from other people.

• Use a separate bathroom if available.

• Household members should stay in another home or place of residence if possible, especially if they have compromised immune systems or chronic health conditions.

• Restrict visitors until you recover and confirm you are not infected with coronavirus.

• Avoid sharing household items such as dishes, cups, eating utensils, towels, bedding, or other items. After using these items, wash them thoroughly with soap and water.


Maintain good hygiene:

• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or into your sleeve when you cough or sneeze. Throw used tissues into a lined trash can in your room before disposal. Immediately wash your hands.

• Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use disposable paper towels when possible. For more information search for ‘hand washing’ at

• Flush toilet with the lid down – the virus may also be present in stool.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces once per day with regular household disinfectant containing one part bleach to nine parts water.

Should we be cancelling events on campuses? 

All internal and external events at VIU’s campuses and facilities are cancelled until May 1. This does not include meetings that are essential for the normal operations of VIU. This decision will be reviewed on April 15 and an update provided. It is based on the Provincial Government’s recommendations to cancel all events with 50 or more people

I live in residence and think I may have flu-like symptoms. What should I do? 

If you have symptoms or are returning from international travel, you should contact call HealthLinkBC by dialing 8-1-1, or phone your primary care provider. Please call all health care providers in advance to notify them you will be attending the office. If you are an international student enrolled in through VIU there is additional information about accessing their mobile doctor service.  This information is found at

If you experience symptoms or are returning from international travel while living in residence, please contact your Community Leader or phone the Residence office at (250) 740-6640 or at so we can support you while you self-isolate.

I live in residence. Do I have to move out now that VIU has switched to alternative course delivery and assessment?

VIU is currently working on a plan to allow all residence students the option of remaining in their housing for the duration of the alternative course delivery. During this time, it is expected that all residents continue to abide by the Residence Community Living Standards (RCLS). To ensure the safety of all our residents, cleaning frequencies have been increased and supplies have been added to common areas to allow students to clean and disinfect before use. If you wish to disinfect your room or shared bathroom, supplies can be signed out at the front desk.

If you plan to move out, you will need to clean your room/bathroom and return your keys. The move-out checklist can be found at Be sure to update your address on your student account so your damage deposit will go to the current address on file.  

What is the status of my housing at VIU Residences?

Residence will be open during alternative course delivery and assessment at VIU. VIU understands that this is home for students and plans to provide safe accommodations for all residence students.  Plans are currently in place to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 virus to the residence community and to continue to provide essential services to our residence community.  Every effort will be made to ensure VIU Residence students can expect secure housing.

What do I do if I believe my Homestay student or another member of my household may be sick?

  • If your student(s) are experiencing any symptoms of illness, they should review these guidelines to find out what to do and what steps to take to minimize the risk of transmission. Please review these guidelines with your students.
  • International students on insurance have access to Mobile Doctor. This program allows your student to connect with Canadian doctors on Maple, a telemedicine company, as a part of their health benefits. Maple provides access to doctors, Canada wide, on the phone, tablet or computer anytime, anywhere.
  • Students have been told if they are feeling ill or experiencing any type of illness that they are to stay home until they are well. Students need to reach out to their professors or faculty to let them know they will not be in class. If your student is a THS student and not attending class, the Host Family must call to inform the high school at 250-740-6317.

In the case another member of your household is sick or needs to self-isolate after returning from abroad, please notify our office as soon as you are able for advice and support on next steps.

If you are a VIU-sanctioned homestay, please contact the VIU Homestay office at with any questions.

I’m an international/out-of-province/exchange student studying at VIU. Should I book my flight home now?

If you decide to return home before Thursday, March 19, 2020, which is when professors are scheduled to communicate their plans for completing courses and assessments directly to their students, please be assured that VIU faculty will do their best to enable you to complete your courses from your home location using alternate approaches.

We want to reassure our students that they will be supported to complete their semester (please see specific details in the next question for Trades programs). We have been working on options to support faculty and students for some time now, enhancing training through our Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning and supporting courses to have online profiles that will be activated by faculty members.

Each instructor will choose the appropriate delivery model for the remainder of their course content and will communicate their plans for completing courses and assessments directly to their students, as noted, no later than March 19, 2020. 

How are travellers returning to Canada affected by COVID-19?

The Government of Canada advises the following when returning to Canada:

  • Self-isolate for 14 days after returning from travel outside of Canada.
  • If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 before you are scheduled to leave, do not get on board any form of public transportation. Seek medical attention.
  • If you experience symptoms of COVID-19 during a flight, tell the flight attendant before you land or the border services officer as you enter the country. They will notify a quarantine officer who will assess your symptoms.
  • If you do not have symptoms but believe you were exposed to a source of COVID-19, report this information to a Canada border services agent on arrival in Canada. This is required under the Quarantine Act. The Canada border services agent will provide instructions for you to follow.
  • There will be messaging on arrivals screens at international airports that will help guide travellers who have travelled to affected areas. The screens tell travellers to inform a border services officer if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms.
  • In addition, pamphlets with additional information on what symptoms to identify and how to contact local health authorities will be provided to travellers.

What are the current travel restrictions? 

The Government of Canada recommends that:

  • All Canadians avoid non-essential travel outside the country until further notice.
  • Canadian travellers return to Canada via commercial means while they remain available.
  • All travellers to Canada self-isolate for 14 days upon entry, with exceptions for workers who are essential to the movement of goods and people.

On Monday, March 16, 2020, the Government of Canada introduced further measures, including, for air travel specifically:

  • Barring foreign nationals from all countries except the United States from entering Canada. The measure would not apply in designated exceptional circumstances, including to air crews, travellers arriving in Canada in transit to a third country, Canadian permanent residents, diplomats or immediate family members of Canadian citizens.
  • Redirecting international passenger flight arrivals to four airports: Toronto Pearson International Airport, Vancouver International Airport, Montréal-Trudeau International Airport, and Calgary International Airport. At this time, this measure will not affect domestic flights or flights from the United States, sun destinations such as Mexico and the Caribbean, or St. Pierre-et-Miquelon, which can continue to operate on their regular routes and land at current Canadian destinations. The Government is working closely with the airline industry and airports to avoid unnecessarily disrupting operations and minimize additionally inconveniencing travellers.
  • Strengthening screening measures at airports, including stronger and more visible messaging, health screening at kiosks, and enhanced cleaning and disinfection of high-traffic areas and facilities at airports.

More info:

I am enrolled in or interested in an Education Abroad trip. Are these still happening?

All VIU-sanctioned international travel, including to the US, has been cancelled. This includes VIU-sanctioned Professional Development, which will be reviewed on April 1.

The Federal Government advised that all Canadians who are abroad should return home. Given this notice, Vancouver Island University is recalling all students on university sanctioned activities abroad. This means all students must either return to Nanaimo or to their home community in Canada at the earliest opportunity. VIU’s Department of International Education is reaching out to all students who are abroad and supporting them to return home. If you have any questions about this, please email:

I am affected by travel restrictions and cannot return to Canada. What should I do? 

If students are unable to return to the University as a result of the travel restrictions, they should contact their department program and indicate the following information:

  1. Full name
  2. Program
  3. If they are a student who lives in residence
  4. If they are a homestay student

Program Chairs will work with students for the best outcomes possible.

What if I feel unsafe in the workplace or have concerns about someone else who is ill in my work area?

If you are concerned about someone in the workplace who is ill and exhibiting flu-like symptoms or have concerns about safety in your workplace, speak to your Manager. Managers are advised to contact Human Resources and/or Health and Safety. Employees in the workplace who are ill with flu-like symptoms should advise their Manager, stay home (as per regular sick leave) and seek out medical advice as recommended.

What happens if I miss classes or work due to illness?

Students: If you are unable to participate in a class, please let your professor know. Please note: Doctor’s notes are no longer required for students who miss classes or assignments due to cold or flu-like symptoms. Communication is required to receive accommodation for any missed classes or coursework. Students in residence housing should contact

Employees: Please report your absence to your Manager in accordance with your normal sick leave protocol and to ensure continuity of sick leave benefits as applicable.

I’m a student in a trades program. Is my program continuing?

VIU is working closely with accrediting bodies to assess alternate delivery for our Trades programs. During the adjourning of classes March 16-20, we will assess the need to delay, cancel or have an alternative delivery method for Trades programs. Trades students will receive an email from their instructor on next steps no later than Thursday, March 19.

Are assessments still going forward?

Students can expect to hear from their instructors no later than Thursday, March 19, 2020 about how their specific programs and/or courses will be delivered. We’d like to ask all students to please check their emails regularly for updates. 

What about intercession and summer session classes? 

These courses will go ahead in an alternate delivery model with no face-to-face classes. Again, you will receive information from your course instructors outlining what this will entail in the days and weeks to come.

Is my internship/practicum still happening? 

We know many students are experiencing frustration in securing internships and practicums. More information will be coming out by early next week regarding these activities. 

Should students or employees with flu-like symptoms be excluded from class/work? 

Everyone with flu-like symptoms should stay at home or in your residence room and call HealthlinkBC by dialing 8-1-1, or phone their primary care provider. Travel history and symptoms should be provided before attending an appointment.   

CLOSE X COVID-19: Updates and Information