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Harvard Programs Postpone Operations in China Due to Coronavirus

Pierce Hall on Oxford Street contains the main office of the Harvard-China Project on Energy, Economy, and Environment.
Pierce Hall on Oxford Street contains the main office of the Harvard-China Project on Energy, Economy, and Environment. By Kathryn S. Kuhar
By Luke A. Williams and Matteo N. Wong, Crimson Staff Writers

Several of Harvard’s China-affiliated research programs and institutions have postponed or altered their operations due to the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

The virus — recently renamed COVID-19 — had infected over 42,000 people worldwide, and the death count had passed 1,000, as of Tuesday evening. Harvard has strongly discouraged travel to China, and the United States State Department also recommends Americans not travel to China due to the virus.

Several students who planned to study abroad in China during the spring semester have had those plans altered by the outbreak, Camila L. Nardozzi, director of the Office of International Education, wrote in an email to The Crimson on Tuesday.

“The students were given the option of changing their study abroad destinations for the semester, but all but one chose to instead come to campus and enroll in classes here, thus deferring their participation in term time study abroad in China to a later semester,” Nardozzi wrote.

Nardozzi added that though it is too early to know how the epidemic will affect summer programs, the Office of International Education is currently operating under the assumption that students will be able to study abroad in China over the summer.

Harvard’s China Health Partnership — a coalition of researchers focused on Chinese healthcare policy and practices — has delayed all conferences and teaching seminars scheduled for the spring and early summer until late June, professor and program director Winnie C. Yip said in an interview. In the meantime, researchers and collaborators will be working on “preparatory” work from home while also working to directly alleviate the outbreak’s impact on Chinese hospitals and help develop policy responses.

Yip said the outbreak has shifted some of HCHP’s future priorities: The partnership will now devote more time and resources to developing a comprehensive online healthcare platform for China.

“One of our research agendas is actually looking at the potential for an online platform for the healthcare industry in China. In fact, during this epidemic, that online platform is playing some very helpful role in easing the burden of hospitals. So that’s something that we will be spending even more time and resources on,” Yip said.

The Harvard Center Shanghai — which partners with Chinese scholars and universities to host conferences and support research — reopened Monday with its staff operating remotely, wrote Yi Wang, the center’s executive director for University programs. The delayed opening date came after the Shanghai government mandated that companies not reopen until Feb. 9.

The Harvard-China Project on Energy, Economy, and Environment’s operations have not been significantly affected, Chris P. Nielsen, the project’s executive director, wrote in an email. However, an upcoming visit to a field site near Beijing was postponed, and a planned workshop at Harvard this spring is also likely to be postponed, Nielson wrote wrote.

The Harvard-China Project has also delayed the announcement of a summer internship opportunity for Harvard College students in China, and may have to cancel the program, according to Nielsen.

The Harvard China Fund has postponed interviews for its Harvard China Student Internship Program to late February or early March, according to a statement on its website.

The Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies is closely monitoring developments in mainland China and is in contact with students currently in China who have received Fairbank Center funding, according to a statement on its website. The Center is still receiving summer funding requests, although final decisions will depend on the University’s travel recommendations as conditions change.

—Staff writer Matteo N. Wong can be reached at matteo.wong@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter at @matteo_wong.

—Staff writer Luke A. Williams can be reached at luke.williams@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter at @LukeAWilliams22.

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