COVID-19: Some universities close student residences

Concordia University is closing its student residences amid the COVID-19 pandemic, urging students to move out by end-of-day Sunday.

Universite de Montreal also told CTV News it was closing its student residences for an undetermined period starting on Monday. 

In a message on its website Wednesday, Concordia stated that residences will be closed as of March 22.

"Students will be issued a refund for both their rent and meal plan as of the date they leave," it reads. 

Those who cannot leave by Sunday due to "exceptional circumstances" should email residenceinfo@concordia.ca, and their case will be reviewed.

However, students will not be asked to leave if they have nowhere to go, according to Vannina Maestracci, Concordia University spokesperson. 

"Accommodations will be provided to all those who need it," she said. "This is not a decision we took lightly and we understand the stress it is causing. Social distancing measures that everyone right now is aiming for are hard to maintain in residences."

She adds the university's four residences have a total capacity of 900 students. There are currently about 500 people left in the dorms.

"We would not be able to take the recommended health measures should students fall ill in residence because of the number of students and space available," Maestracci said.

"We understand where the university is coming from, by wanting to minimize risk to students, but we believe this move does the contrary: create more risk to a vulnerable population," said Patrick Quinn, the Concordia Student Union's Academic & Advocacy Coordinator. "This move is irresponsible. Decisions of this magnitude and gravity need to be thought out with all the variables accounted for and figured out before they are made."

At Universite de Montreal, where residences are closing on Monday, residents unable to find a place to live will be accomodated by the university, a spokesperson said. 

McGill University, meanwhile, says it has "strongly encouraged" students in residences to consider returning home as soon as possible if they are able to. 

"For those who cannot return home at this time, measures have been put in place to facilitate that students in residences adhere to the practice of social distancing and proper hygiene in accordance with the recommendations of public health," the university noted in a statement.

With a report from The Canadian Press and CTV News' Katelyn Thomas. 

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