Hong Kong university students were caught by surprise when at least five institutions told dormitory residents to return home, or would ask them to do so, as a precaution amid a surge in the number of local coronavirus cases. Chinese University (CUHK) told occupants of its student residences to leave by Sunday, while Polytechnic University (PolyU), Baptist University and City University (CityU) said they also had plans to “encourage” residents to leave. A spokesman for Education University (EdU) said it had received reports of confirmed Covid-19 cases involving dormitory residents, with occupants given the option to leave from Thursday. But CUHK’s announcement on Tuesday was a shock, said a 19-year-old first-year foreign student who declined to be named. “Every non-local student was panicking because we really had nowhere else to go,” he said. The university has since clarified that those unable to leave would be allowed to remain at their student halls of residence. Ministers meet mainland Chinese officials as Hong Kong faces 1,510 cases On Thursday evening, dormitories began asking international students to fill out an online form if they had no permanent home in Hong Kong and needed to stay at residences for the rest of the semester. Chloe Alquitran, 21, a third-year English major raised in Hong Kong, questioned why it was necessary to make people go home when everyone staying in student halls was already required to be fully vaccinated. “There’s no need to push us out of the dorms,” she said. “The news came so suddenly and we had to go by Sunday. At least the dorm said our fees would be refunded.” A CUHK spokesman told the Post the move to clear out its dormitories was among a number of outbreak-related measures put in place as coronavirus infections continued to surge in Hong Kong. From February 24, students must have received at least one vaccine jab to enter the campus. Those with valid medical reasons for remaining unvaccinated will have to undergo weekly Covid-19 tests. “In order to reduce the risk of transmission, the university is encouraging its resident students to move out of dormitories and return to their homes wherever possible,” the spokesman said. But the university was aware that some students might have “compelling reasons to stay at the dormitories”, such as those with living spaces that were unsuitable for studying or students with no home in Hong Kong. “We will continue to provide residence on campus for these students,” the spokesman said. Alina Chen, 22, a final year business administration student from Shenzhen, said CUHK had given her permission to stay at her dormitory because she had nowhere else to go and border restrictions made it difficult for her to return home. She said that some Hong Kong students had begun leaving dormitories even before the university told everyone to move out, as they were worried about the city’s fifth wave of Covid-19 infections. “I notice many students are selling their food supplies on social media now,” she said. Chen, who had received three doses of a Covid-19 vaccine , thought the measures to clear the campus were helpful, given the speed with which the Omicron variant was spreading. Hong Kong students taken aback by UK’s approach to ‘living with the virus’ A PolyU spokesman said it had strongly encouraged all students to move out of its halls of residence voluntarily “to safeguard the hall community’s interests and reduce the risk of transmission during this critical time”. “Students who opt to stay must strictly follow the hall regulations and the precautionary measures laid down by the government and the university,” the spokesman added. Meanwhile, a spokesman from CityU said it was working out measures related to the pandemic, including encouraging students to move out of dormitories voluntarily as soon as possible. An EdU spokesman said that aside from extending online teaching until the end of the semester, the university was building “a protective barrier” around its community by implementing a vaccine pass arrangement from February 24. The Education Bureau earlier suspended face-to-face classes at all schools including those offering non-local curriculum until February 21. But it asked schools to remain open and look after any students who lacked carers at home and to arrange for staff to remain on duty to handle school affairs.