B.C. students say universities haven't done COVID-19 testing on unvaccinated as promised

Students and staff at Metro Vancouver’s two largest universities say not enough is being done to keep them safe from COVID-19, and their concerns revolve around testing protocols for the unvaccinated.

Both Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia decided against making vaccination mandatory for work and study on campus this semester.

“The decisions that SFU makes around the safety of our community have consequences,” said SFU Student Society president Gabe Liosis, in an interview with CTV News Vancouver.

All students, faculty and staff at both schools were directed to declare their vaccination status through an online portal but not everyone has done that.

Those who are unvaccinated, or who choose not to declare, are supposed to be subjected to regular rapid COVID-19 testing. But students and staff at the schools say nobody is checking to make sure they do.

“There’s no actual enforcement and no consequences,” said Derek Sahota, with the SFU Teaching Support Staff Union. “And so that means at the moment, about 15 per cent of the community, we have no idea whether they’re vaccinated or not or whether they’ve been tested or not.”

In a statement to CTV News, the University of British Columbia said it is about to begin an audit of its vaccine declarations.

“It is our hope that through education and communication we’ll be able to resolve any issues, however continued non-compliance may lead to significant repercussions. The determination of outcomes will be reviewed on a case by case basis,” reads the statement.

SFU also sent a statement from Vice-Provost Elizabeth Elle.

“We are very proud of the work and due diligence that our community has taken to follow COVID-19 safety precautions and protocols,” she said. “Any continued non-compliance will be reviewed and followed up on a case-by-case basis. An audit will also be conducted in November to ensure the accuracy of proof of vaccine submissions.”

But neither school has said how they will enforce the rapid testing mandate for the unvaccinated – or what consequences there could be.

“From our perspective, it has been a bit disappointing to see that the rollout has taken this long,” said Cole Evans, president of UBC’s Alma Mater Society. “Especially when the University made those commitments that they would have this up and ready to go for the start of the school year.”

With the last day of classes just six weeks away, it’s not clear if SFU or UBC will take any action before then.