ST JOHN’S COLLEGE AND COVID-19 (26 March 2020)

The global COVID-19 pandemic is a very real threat for colleges and halls of residence around Australia. We understand it is a worrying time for our students, our staff and their families. At St John’s College, we have taken steps to ensure the safety of everyone at College and are communicating regularly with our College community.

Over the last 109 years, St John’s College has weathered many difficulties including two world wars, two recessions and numerous other crises. Despite the current challenges, we remain optimistic that our long tradition of providing a vibrant and supportive environment to undertake tertiary studies will stand us in good stead for the future.


To date, no College students or staff have tested positive to the virus. The College plans to remain open to service students who are not able to return home. We currently have 37 students in our care.


  • Latest information about the University of Queensland can be found here.
  • Information about Brisbane City Council can be found here.
  • Information about the Australian Government’s response can be found here.


On Monday 16 March, our College Warden, Rose Alwyn urged all students to return home if they could do so. This resulted in the number of students at College decreasing from 307 to 45 in a week. This was a sensible, preventative measure that has made it a lot easier for us to enact social distancing and prepare for the possibility of an outbreak at the College.

Other actions include:

  • taking the temperature of all student and staff at College daily;
  • confining students to College unless they have work or need to visit the supermarket;
  • ensuring there is no self-service of meals or eating utensils;
  • allocating staff to observe and ensure social distancing during meal times;
  • increasing the number of handwashing and hand cleansing facilities throughout College, including at dining room entry points, with 50 automatic hand sanitising units installed;
  • providing clear instruction to students and staff about infection hazards and preventative behaviour;
  • intensified cleaning with a focus on hard surfaces;
  • regular communication with staff, students and their families and UQ;
  • continuing pastoral support and smaller-scale gatherings with appropriate physical distancing;
  • providing tutorials online via Zoom, which are recorded so they can be viewed again;
  • enabled staff to work from home where possible.


Returned students

What happens if returned students are found to be infected?
We have advised all returning students to advise us immediately if they test positive to COVID-19. The College will follow National guidelines in the event of a confirmed case among our cohort. 

Will you reimburse fees for students who have returned home?
Right now, our priority is ensuring the health and wellbeing of our students. Due to the uncertainty of the duration of a suspended campus/online teaching and learning environment, we are currently assessing the possible scenarios for the operations of the College. An announcement will be made regarding any decision by Council relating to fees before the Easter break.

Can returned students access tutorials and other support groups?
Yes. Online tutorials and group academic support will continue to be available to all College students, no matter whether they have returned home or continue to live at College.

When can I return to College?
College will advise students when it is safe to return to College. It is not possible to advise a date at this time.

Students in residence

What should I do if I become unwell?
COVID-19 is difficult to diagnose without testing and presents with many of the same symptoms as the common cold or influenza. The first thing you should do is return to your room and advise College staff. If you are having difficulty breathing and/or feel severely unwell, please call 000 or ask staff to call an ambulance.

What happens if I am diagnosed with COVID-19?
If you are diagnosed with the virus, you will be placed in quarantine in one of our units.

Do I need to self-isolate if I have been in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19?
Isolation for 14 days is mandatory for anyone who has been in ‘close contact’ with someone with COVID-19, even if they are not exhibiting any symptoms.

What is ‘close contact’?
‘Close contact’ means that you have been face-to-face for at least 15 minutes, or spent at least 2 hours in a closed space with someone who has tested positive COVID-19.

Who will look after me if I am in isolation?
College staff will ensure you receive meals and medical care for the duration of your stay in isolation. The College will take responsibility for cleaning your room and washing linen and clothing.

Can my friends or family visit while I am in isolation?
No. During the 14-day period of isolation, you cannot have visitors. This is for their safety.

What if someone around me presents with symptoms?
Please advise a College staff member if you are concerned about the health or wellbeing of anyone in our College community. You should encourage anyone with symptoms of a contagious illness to rest, avoid contact with others and seek medical attention.


Will the names of infected students or staff be made public?
College will not publicly disclose the identify of anyone diagnosed with COVID-19. However, Queensland Health personnel may contact fellow students at College to identify anyone who may have been in contact with that person in an effort to contain the spread of the virus.


Is the College likely to close?
We are not planning to close the College. We still have students in residence and we intend to resume full operations as soon as it is safe to do so.

What is the financial impact on the College?
We are modelling the financial impact of a closure longer than five days in the event that authorities require the College to close.

Is the College insured for this situation?
Like most colleges and halls of residence, the College is not indemnified for any loss resulting from interruptions to its business because of diseases declared to be quarantinable. We are investigating whether the College can access financial aid from the Federal Government.

Will College staff lose their jobs?
We are doing everything we can to ensure the safety of our staff while also looking at ways to safeguard jobs. The College will follow its obligations under the Fair Work and Australian workplace laws.

When will College resume full operations?
We will reopen to our full capacity as soon as it is safe to do so. As the situation is evolving daily, it is not possible to give an estimate at this time.