Students: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 16th December 2020.

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Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Transport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans he has to prevent the spread of covid-19 in university accommodation when students return after the Christmas break.

Photo of Michelle Donelan Michelle Donelan Minister of State (Education)

The safety and wellbeing of staff and students in higher education is always our priority. The government is doing all it can to minimise the risks to those working and studying in our higher education institutions during this unprecedented situation, whilst mitigating the impact on education.

The government is committed to prioritising education and wants to enable all students, including those who have travelled home for the winter break, to return to university as safely as possible. On 2 December 2020 we published guidance on students returning to higher education for spring term, which sets out our plans for staggering the return of students over a 5-week period. This guidance is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/higher-education-reopening-buildings-and-campuses/students-returning-to-higher-education-from-spring-term.

Universities have responded well to COVID-19 outbreaks and continue to learn lessons on how to minimise the risks and support students. Improved access to asymptomatic testing for the initial return of students in the spring term provides further support to universities to manage the risk of transmission and take swift action to respond to any cases.

I have also written to universities asking them to ensure that self-isolating students have a range of choices available for access to food and other essential supplies. This includes providing food to those that need it and facilitating deliveries that will not require students to leave the accommodation where they are self-isolating, thereby preventing the spread of COVID-19.

We strongly encourage students to take a test when they return to university, to help mitigate the transmission of COVID-19, and keep themselves and others safe.

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