New guidance will say that students in the UK will be allowed to travel home for Christmas between the 3rd and 9th of December to make sure families can be reunited
Universities in England should stop all in-person teaching and will be reverting to online-only classes by early December, allowing students to return safely home for Christmas, the government has now said.
The Department for Education is due to be issue guidance that will say that university students will be permitted to travel between the 3rd and the 9the December to make sure that families can be reunited during the holiday period.
Universities in the UK will be expected to employ a set of staggered departure dates over this “student travel window” and will be working with nearby institutions as a way of managing the resulting pressure within the country’s transport infrastructure.
This comes after Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has vowed that the government will “go further” as he has announced three new measures that are supposed to help workers and businesses to get through the winter months, as well as the ongoing second spike of COVID-19.
Special envoy on the global COVID-19 response at the World Health Organisation, Dr David Nabarro, warned about the impact of students in the UK returning to universities after Christmas.
He said: “If there’s going to be a big return in January, all I’m going to say is, be careful, because that’s when the virus can really move around quickly.
“So please stick with the instructions that we continue to give out about physical distancing, faces masks, isolating whenever you’re sick, together with very good hygiene.”
Universities minister Michelle Donelan admitted students had experienced a “hellish time” and “very difficult” term since returning in September and October.
She told Sky News: “We made a commitment that they could be able to go home for Christmas in the safest way as possible for both their communities and families.”
“We’ve now got this four-week period of national restrictions and, at the end of it students, will pose a much-reduced risk to their families, loved ones and communities.”
Ms Donelan added the government would be “complementing” the student travel window with testing.
“We’re targeting that testing in some of the most highest-risk areas and universities that are highest risk.”
“And also looking at those student percentages who are most vulnerable, for example BAME students.”
“That is one element of this strategy, you can never eliminate the risk – we’re in the midst of a pandemic”
“What we’re doing is trying to manage that risk, reduce it and give students the confidence to go home.”
This comes after, asked whether the new COVID-19 vaccine could be available by Christmas, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that was “absolutely a possibility”, but he expected that the mass roll-out occur “in the first part of next year”.
Dr Jenny Harries, the Deputy chief medical officer said the “mass movement of students” presents a “really significant challenge” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The measures announced today will help minimise that risk and help students get home to their families as safely as possible for Christmas,” she said.
“It is crucial that students follow the guidance in order to protect their families and the communities they return to.”