Students may have to self-isolate to return home for Christmas

Students may be required to self-isolate at the end of the current university term in order to safely return home to be with their families at Christmas, the Education Secretary has said.

Gavin Williamson told MPs it was “essential” that measures were put in place to ensure students could be with their loved ones during the festive period while “minimising the risk of transmission” of Covid-19.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday, he said: “Where there are specific circumstances that warrant it, there may be a requirement for some students to self-isolate at the end of term and we will be working with the sector to ensure this will be possible, including ending in-person learning if that is deemed to be necessary.”

Gavin Williamson
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said guidance would be published ‘shortly’ (House of Commons)

Mr Williamson said guidance on the issue would “shortly” be published by his department.

His statement comes as a surge in Covid-19 cases has led to thousands of students having to self-isolate at universities including Glasgow, Manchester Metropolitan and Edinburgh Napier.

According to university statements and local press reports this month, at least 30 institutions across the UK have seen confirmed coronavirus cases.

The outbreaks and subsequent student accommodation lockdowns led to the Labour demanding clarity over whether students would be able to safely return home this Christmas.

Food parcels being handed out
Food parcels have been handed out at the University of Glasgow (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Concerns have also been raised over the level support being offered to self-isolating students.

Larissa Kennedy, president of the National Union of Students (NUS), claimed on Monday that some of those self-isolating felt they were being “trapped” in “disgusting conditions”.

Mr Williamson said universities have been asked to provide “additional help and practical support” to students, with universities ensuring those isolating are “properly cared for” and can access food, medical and cleaning supplies if needed.

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