Scottish students are being threatened with a strict ‘red and yellow card’ system for breaking Covid-19 rules as they’re banned from parties and pubs.
It comes as at least a dozen universities in England and Wales have set up their own testing facilities, as outbreaks are reported on 17 UK campuses.
Up to 125 students have contacted coronavirus across three universities in Edinburgh in another blow for Scottish universities after outbreaks in Glasgow, Dundee, Fife and Aberdeen.
Institutions have said they will make it ‘absolutely clear’ for those studying that parties will not be tolerated – as a SAGE scientist warned students could be kept on campus over Christmas where outbreaks occur.
Sir Mark Walport told BBC Radio 4 ‘s Today programme: ‘The one thing that we don’t want is for an outbreak of coronavirus in a university to then result in students going home and spreading that infection to other parts of the country and other communities, to their parents, to their grandparents.
‘If students are infected when it comes near to the end of term they may have to remain where they are.’
Despite recent outbreaks at universities, no students have yet required hospital treatment.
Around 600 students are self-isolating at Glasgow University, which has set up its own mobile testing unit, while students are warned not to attend parties and pubs this weekend
At least a dozen other universities in England and Wales have brought in their own testing facilities to monitor for potential outbreaks
UK universities to report Covid-19 cases
Aberdeen – Number unconfirmed
Nottingham – One student
Liverpool – 80 students, seven staff
Edinburgh – 120 students at Edinburgh Napier, five at the University of Edinburgh and Queen Margaret University
Dundee – Four students at Abertay University
Fife – Four cases at St Andrews University
Glasgow – 124 cases
Exeter – Number unconfirmed
Canterbury – Two cases at University of Kent
Manchester – ‘Several cases’ at Manchester Metropolitan University
Leeds – Six cases
De Montfort – Two confirmed cases
Warwick – One confirmed case
Swansea – 12 confirmed cases
Bristol – One confirmed case at the University of the West of England
Universities Scotland yesterday outlined new rules for students in the North of the UK, instructing them not to attend hospitality businesses and not to mix outside their household.
The new rules say institutions will ‘make absolutely clear to students that there must be no parties, and no socialising outside their households’.
They add: ‘This weekend, the first of the new tighter Scottish government guidance, we will require students to avoid all socialising outside of their households and outside of their accommodation.
‘We will ask them not to go to bars or other hospitality venues.’
It warned of taking a two-strike approaches to anyone breaking the rules, saying: ‘We will take a strict ‘Yellow Card/Red Card’ approach to breaches of student discipline that put students and others at risk.
‘While we first want to advise students about breaches of discipline, we will not hesitate to escalate this to disciplinary action including potential discontinuation of study.’
It comes as the likes of Nottingham University set up its own testing facilities to monitor for an outbreak, while Exeter has brought in its own private tests.
Professor Jonathan Ball from Nottingham University said its scheme had potentially prevented an outbreak.
He told BBC Radio 4: ‘We’ve had a pilot running with vet students they started towards the end of July, we’ve been weekly testing them and they’ve been taking their own swabs.
‘We’ve had a single case that was an asymptomatic person, because of our advice they isolated, their household isolated. We’ve continued testing three weeks on and we’ve had no more cases.
‘We were able to identify it quickly and potentially stop an outbreak before it started.’
If a positive test is returned at the university, it has to apply for a pillar two test from the Government, in order for it to be officially registered as part of the track and trace system.
Professor Powell explained why the scheme was so important: ‘It’s been known for sometime that universities are particularly high risk settings. When you have lots of very young people very often somebody who’s infected at that age will show very mild symptoms and often no symptoms at all so they won’t even know they’re infected.
‘We’re asking them to live together in fairly large numbers so there is the potential for rapid spread of the virus and therefore we need to be aware of that and do all we can to control that.’
So far the majority of outbreaks have been recorded in Scotland, but there have been student Covid-19 cases at universities in Leeds, Exeter, Liverpool and Manchester.
Students in Scotland put up post-it notes in their windows, with one writing ‘Send drink’ and another lamenting the fact they could not smoke while in isolation.
At least 600 have had to confine themselves to their student accommodation after 124 students caught the virus at the Glasgow university.
Meanwhile Mr Hancock said he does not want students to have to stay at their institutions over the Christmas break.
He said: ‘I don’t want to have a situation like that, and I very much hope we can avoid it,’ he said.
Students living in IQ Parker House Students accommodation in Dundee were asked to self isolate due to an outbreak. They entertained themselves by posting messages on the windows
Asked if it was under consideration, he said: ‘I’ve learned not to rule things out. And one of the challenges we have is making sure that people are as safe as possible and that includes not spreading between the generations, but… this is not our goal.’
Earlier this week it was revealed 500 students were self-isolating at Abertay University in Dundee after one confirmed case, while 80 students and seven staff were confirmed to have coronavirus at the University of Liverpool.
There have also been ‘a number’ of confirmed cases at Aberdeen University.
The outbreaks across Scotland have prompted a strong warning against house parties.
At least 80 students at Liverpool University have contracted coronavirus, along with seven staff
During yesterday’s coronavirus briefing national clinical director, Jason Leitch, said: ‘We need you not to have house parties, I could not be more clear.’
Nicola Sturgeon said the ‘significant outbreak at the University of Glasgow’ had impacted on the daily Covid-19 infection figure for the NHS Greater Glasgow area.
A total of 224 cases were recorded across the health board area in the past day, she said.
Prof Leitch said he had spoken to student leaders about the latest restrictions on Tuesday through the National Union of Students.