University students should be double jabbed by September, says UCU
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University students should be double jabbed by September, says UCU

All university students should be fully vaccinated by September, and face masks made mandatory on campus, according to the University and College Union (UCU).

In an open letter to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, the UCU warns that the Delta variant will be prevalent on campus unless strict measures are in place to protect staff and students.

The Covid jab has been approved for young people up to three months before they turn 18, but the union wants all students vaccinated before the start of the new term in the autumn and wants students to be a priority group.

The union is calling on universities to make face masks compulsory for staff and students, access to free PCR tests, and funding from the government to support education recovery.

It described the dropping of social distancing and mask wearing in England, coupled with the reopening of nightclubs, as “reckless” and a “recipe for disaster”.

According to the UCU, at least 45 universities in the UK reported serious Covid outbreaks last autumn, and such numbers are likely to be repeated unless action is taken.

The letter to the Education Secretary said: “Last year, ministers green-lit the mass movement of students across the country and failed to recognise the effect this would have on infections, on those working and studying in the sector, and on the wider communities of which they become a part.

Students and staff endured totally avoidable chaos in the last academic year, and rightly want to put that behind them, but at present, there is a real danger that the disruption could return as cases surge and restrictions are eased across the UK

–Jo Grady

“As the Westminster government removes all restrictions and the associated public health guidance, there is a real danger that unless we learn key lessons from last year, our education settings become incubators for Covid-19 all over again.”

The UCU has also sent letters to the Scottish government and the Northern Ireland executive.

UCU general secretary Dr Jo Grady said: “Students and staff endured totally avoidable chaos in the last academic year, and rightly want to put that behind them, but at present, there is a real danger that the disruption could return as cases surge and restrictions are eased across the UK.

“To protect students’ education, it is vital that governments and providers work with trade unions to ensure vital health and safety measures are in place on campus, including the provision and mandated wearing of masks. A return to the level of disruption experienced last year would be unforgivable.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We strongly encourage all students to take up the offer of both vaccine doses as soon as they become eligible. We also recommend that face coverings are worn in enclosed and crowded spaces where people may come into contact with people they do not normally meet, or in the event of a local outbreak.”

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