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U of M and St. Thomas cancel some study abroad programs due to coronavirus concerns

St. Thomas is closing its Rome program, while the U of M is suspending its South Korea program.
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Conceptual illustration of the coronavirus as if it were observed from a microscope.

MINNEAPOLIS — The University of Minnesota and the University of St. Thomas have announced cancellations of certain overseas programs due to concerns about coronavirus.

In a notice posted to the U of M's Global Programs website on Thursday, the University announced it was suspending student travel and study abroad programs in South Korea for the spring semester.

"A major factor was the U.S. Department of State’s decision to raise South Korea’s travel advisory country-wide to a Level 3," the university's announcement said. "Recent announcements of reduction in air service to South Korea may also make an exit from the country more difficult in the coming weeks or months."

In addition to South Korea, the University of Minnesota also has travel restrictions in place to China related to COVID-19 coronavirus concerns.

The U of M said the decision does not apply to faculty or staff travel, but the university is advising against travel to South Korea.

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On Friday, the University of St. Thomas announced it was closing its programs in Rome, following an increase in reported cases of coronavirus in Italy.

"After careful deliberation, and out of an abundance of caution, the university has made the difficult decision to cancel the remainder of the Saint John Vianney/Catholic Studies Rome Semester and to close our Bernardi Campus," the University of St. Thomas said in a letter to students and parents.

Students currently in Rome are being encouraged to return to the United States as soon as possible. The Bernardi Campus will officially close on March 6.

"We simply cannot predict how COVID-19 will continue to spread throughout Italy, and we believe it is in the best interests of our students to leave Rome before the ability to do so is restricted," the letter stated.

"Many of you are understandably disappointed for this program to end early – as are all of us. We are proud of St. Thomas’ study abroad programs and are blessed with unique resources like our Bernardi Campus to offer our students rich experiences. Ultimately, though, we hope you understand this decision was made in the interest of the safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff. We want to stress that health risks for our students are low at this time. However, with the virus outbreak still not being fully understood and the potential for rapidly changing travel restrictions, we want to be proactive in bringing students on these programs home," the letter said.

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