Tackling the toughest outbreak: how Lingnan cares and protects its community
31 Mar 2022
From February to March 2022, when Hong Kong faced the biggest wave of infections since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic with tens of thousands of cases every day, LU staff did everything they could to meet the unprecedented challenges and protect the Lingnan community. Time and rigour were key.
To maintain high teaching and learning quality, after weighing the learning quality and risks from the pandemic, the University decided to deliver face-to-face teaching and learning activities as far as possible in the classrooms; and students were allowed to attend classes physically or online. During the hard time, University top leadership, academics, supporting and administrative colleagues worked closely as one to provide every support to address students’ learning needs, while ensuring all measures to counter the pandemic were in place.
President Leonard K Cheng thanks donors for their generous supports to the University during the pandemic.
At LU’s 10 hostels, which house over 2,500 local and non-local students, local and non-local students, things were even more complicated, in particular as more and more COVID-positive cases were reported, and Hong Kong's normal healthcare facilities were severely overloaded.
“Not knowing what is going on can greatly intensify anxiety,” says Prof Annie Chan, Warden of William M W Mong Hall The Bank of East Asia Hall. “Our Warden’s Office team needs to maintain timely and close communication with students to update them on the latest situation, including newly confirmed cases and new policies.”
As well as sending out mass emails and putting posters up in lifts, lobbies and common areas, the Warden’s Office, which consists of a warden, a senior tutor and tutors, also solicited the help from the Student Hostel Association to reach students. “Our tutors would also telephone, text and knock on students' doors to make sure they had received our messages,” Prof Chan adds.
Since there was no possibility for Lingnan students to be allocated to public quarantine facilities anywhere during the period, the University quickly decided to designate floors and rooms in each hostel to isolate confirmed cases and rapid antigen tested positive students from others to prevent cross-infection.
Indeed, many students with no family in Hong Kong or whose homes were not suitable for isolation felt grateful for having a safe hostel place to live.
On March 14, the Office of Student Affairs gives hostel residents who are under isolation a wellness pack to cheer them up.
“I am an international student and don't have any family here,” says Sari Handayani, Year one PhD student in Social Policy. “Sometimes I was frightened that I would be homeless if, in the worst scenario, I test positive. But after reading the University Q&A document, I feel safe, and sure that Lingnan University will take care of us, and at least provide a temporary quarantine facility rather than leaving students homeless.”
Lingnan was one of the few local universities to give resident students the option to stay or leave during the Omicron outbreak.
“After testing positive, I immediately called the emergency hotline provided by the school for my own and others' health,” a student resident of Chung Shun Yee Min Hall explains.
The student was immediately assigned a single room to quarantine in. “On my third day of quarantine, I had great difficulty in breathing, and when I contacted senior tutor Elaine, she immediately made an appointment for me with a Chinese medicine practitioner, who gave me professional advice which quickly cured me. I would like to thank Elaine for her help and words of encouragement, which greatly helped me to recover quickly. She was not afraid of being infected, but put my physical condition first.”
For students in quarantine, LU offered emotional support from counsellors, medical advice from the LU Chinese Medicine Clinic, meal delivery services from Lingnan House, and the Wardens’ Offices also helped to purchase medicines and daily necessities so students did not have to worry.
Liu Shen, Accounting year 3 from the Mainland, says “The most challenging time during the pandemic was when I found out I was infected and didn’t have a place for quarantine.” She thanked all the staff and tutors in the hostels, but most especially the students who had been living on the floor that was taken over for quarantine. “For the sake of everyone's safety, the students sacrificed their own safety to a certain extent, Comptroller’s Office arranged cleaning for the whole floor and handing out test kits to floor mates. We could isolate there with a full support from the Wardens’ Office because of our community’s generosity of spirit, and what everyone did benefitted us all.”
“While health and wellbeing of student residents are our top concern, we consider our hostels are safe, as more than 80 per cent of residents have been fully vaccinated as of mid-February. We decided to allow student residents to choose whether to leave or stay in the hostels out of our respect for their individual preferences and judgement. Thanks to the joint efforts of Lingnan staff and students, cleaners and security guards, as well as Lingnan House who offers delivery service to all quarantined residents, our infected students luckily have only mild symptoms and have recovered speedily,” says Prof Li Donghui, LU Associate Vice-President (Student Affairs) and Warden of the Jockey Club Hall (E).
Recently, the Office of Student Affairs launched a “Wellness Hotspot” website which offers physical and mental health tips, in parallel with the gerontechnology research team’s Anti-COVID-19 campaign featuring a series of videos including “Chinese medicine food therapy”, “Online exercises” and “Anti-pandemic information” for the elderly and general public to fight the pandemic in better physical and mental health.
“We can get through this difficult time by working closely together as all have been doing so conscientiously since the very beginning,” says Prof Li.