VICTORIA -- More than 1,200 University of Victoria (UVic) students have signed an online petition to shut down the school's campus due to COVID-19 concerns.

The online petition, which had accumulated more than 1,225 signatures as of Thursday morning, calls on UVic president Jamie Cassels to close the campus to help protect the university community, including international students.

"As students, we place great priority on our academics. However, current circumstances must be addressed," reads the petition. 

"By continuing to ask students to come to school we are increasing the risk of not only being exposed to the disease but exposing our family members, our coworkers, our partners, and other loved ones."

The petition notes that while no one in the UVic community has reported having or being exposed to someone with COVID-19, many students are hoping that the institution will take a proactive approach.

Students are suggesting that classes be taught online or through other remote learning methods. 

"Given the high volume of students who rely on public transportation, attending classrooms, studying in the library, and eating in common areas will inevitably increase rates of exposure," reads the petition.

On Wednesday, UVic president Jamie Cassels said that the university shared students' concerns about the novel coronavirus, but that the organization believed the risk to the community remained low.

"Along with others, our community is concerned about the global progression of the COVID-19 virus and the impact on our work, research and study at UVic," Cassels said in a statement.

"The health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus is our highest priority."

Last week, the university launched an emergency operations centre (EOC) to create policies for any possible outbreak of a virus on campus and a response co-ordination team (ROT) to direct possible disruptions to academic learning.

UVic says that the EOC is undertaking new daily cleaning and disinfecting measures and have created guidelines for students who may be taking part in university-sponsored travel. 

"We are also working with our local, provincial and federal partners to address the impacts of COVID-19 based on the best available public health expertise and recommendations," said Cassels.

The university is asking everyone in the community to maintain good personal hygiene practices and to stay home if they believe they are affected by any kind of sickness. UVic also waived the medical documentation requirement for students to take time away from class for absences less than two weeks.

UVic students' call for a campus shutdown comes as tens of thousands of Canadian students have asked institutions to shut down their campuses.

More than 90,000 people have signed a petition to shut down universities across the country.