Students are in lockdown in their halls of residence and facing periods of self-isolation and disciplinary action as universities grapple with increasing Covid-19 cases just days into the new term.
Universities have been urging students to follow the rule of six and therefore only socialise with housemates. With Scotland having their freshers’ week before the rest of the UK, there have already been outbreaks. Edinburgh Napier University already has 20 cases.
Allan Wilson, president of the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS), said halls of residence could be “hot spots” for the virus: “It may mirror what happened with schools going back, putting pressure on the testing system.
“Students don’t just come from around the country; they come from around the world. So I think there is an inherent risk there and potentially we could get a rerun of what we saw with schools.”
Multiple UK universities have already reported coronavirus cases, the majority being linked to students in halls of residents mixing with other flats, which is now considered illegal. Cases have ranged from Oxford Brookes, Bath, Manchester Metropolitan, Glasgow, Stirling and Edinburgh Napier universities.
Many universities have not had their fresher’s weeks yet, and there are fears this will lead to increasing case numbers.
Students don’t just come from around the country; they come from around the world. So I think there is an inherent risk there and potentially we could get a rerun of what we saw with schools
– Allan Wilson
Four St Andrews University students have tested positive for coronavirus after an illegal flat party in freshers’ week. As a result, a further 40 students are in self-isolation.
Principal Sally Mapstone said: “This is in addition to the three sporadic cases which I had notified to you all previously. All have comparatively mild illness and are being appropriately supported.
“The party broke the law, and our own very clear guidelines on socialising and safe behaviour, the ripples from this single incident have consequences for all of us.”
Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), said: “Each day the evidence is mounting that the government and employers need to go much further to prevent a second wave. This cannot be business as usual.”