Students not at fault for surging coronavirus cases – Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon has insisted students are not to blame for a rise in coronavirus outbreaks, as she announced a record daily total of new Covid-19 cases.

Hundreds of students at universities across Scotland are self-isolating after outbreaks of the virus.

All students face disciplinary action if they break strict measures imposed on them by their universities, including bans on visiting pubs over this weekend and restrictions on socialising.

Speaking at the daily briefing in Edinburgh, the First Minister said 558 people tested positive for coronavirus in Scotland in the past 24 hour, bringing the total to 26,518.

This is the highest daily total since the pandemic began.

There has also been a rise in the positivity rates of tests to 9.5%, but no new deaths have been recorded – meaning the total number of fatalities remains at 2,510.

Addressing students, Ms Sturgeon said: “I am so sorry, so heart sorry, that this time of your lives is being made as tough as it is just now – I really feel for you, but I feel especially for those of you starting university for the first time and, of course, living alone for the first time.

“This is an exciting time in your lives but I remember from my own experience… that it’s also a time of adjustment and it’s also a time of home sickness as well, and that’s the case for students every year without Covid-19 but it is much more difficult given the circumstances you are all facing right now.”

She said some students feel they are being blamed for the spread of Covid-19 but “that is not the case”.

“It’s not your fault”, she added.

She urged students not to visit other households or go to bars and restaurants over the September weekend, and to download the Protect Scotland app.

The First Minister said universities are responsible for supporting students’ mental health during outbreaks in student accommodation and have a “big, big responsibility” to look out for their welfare.

She told the briefing: “I’ve spoken personally this morning to university principals to stress their responsibilities to you and I know it is something they take seriously, but I also know that it’s something that parents will want to be assured of.

“Student services already have special arrangements in place including 24-hour helplines, support for food deliveries and additional mental health counsellors for those who might need that support.”

Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government is assessing whether self-isolating students can be allowed to leave their accommodation and return to their family homes, and guidance on that could be issued over the weekend.

She said: “I’m going to be frank, that’s a difficult balancing act, because if you go home after you’ve been asked to self-isolate that may have implications for your family, who then also may be asked to self-isolate if you test positive.

“I wanted to let you know that we are looking at what might be possible there and it is our aim to issue some further guidance on that over the weekend.”

The First Minister also thanked students for their compliance, adding: “You’re bearing a burden that I desperately wish you didn’t have to be bearing right now, but you’re playing your collective part in beating Covid-19 back.

“For that, you have my thanks and deep appreciation, and also understanding of how difficult this is for you at this time.”

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