LONDON – Hundreds of students have been in self-isolation in several British universities as major coronavirus outbreaks were reported on campus just days into the new academic year, media reports said on Thursday (Sept 24).
BBC reported that the latest outbreak at Glasgow University has led to 124 students testing positive and the university said about 600 people were self-isolating.
The university said clusters are centred on two halls of student residence in the city and the outbreak was largely due to social activity at the start of Freshers Week in early September.
Any students found to be breaking the self-isolation rules will face disciplinary action, including termination of their accommodation contracts and suspension from the university, said the university.
In Dundee, another Scottish city, about 500 residents at one student residence have been asked to self-isolate until contact tracing is complete after three confirmed Covid-19 cases.
In Scotland’s Aberdeen, 72 residents at Hillhead student village are self-isolating after some students tested positive.
The Guardian newspaper said earlier this week that at least seven universities across Britain were already dealing with cases of Covid-19 among students, with outbreaks linked to illegal freshers’ parties.
Four students at the University of St Andrews tested positive for the virus and 40 more are in isolation following an illegal party at one of the university’s halls last week.
There are further cases at Edinburgh Napier, Glasgow, Stirling, Oxford Brookes, Bath and Manchester Metropolitan universities, with fears of more infections as a greater number of students arrive on campus and the academic term begins.
The University and College Union (UCU), a higher education union, has previously warned universities could become the “care homes of the second wave of Covid-19”.
Ms Jo Grady, UCU general secretary, told Sky News that the start of a new academic year is “the biggest migration of people” on an annual basis in Britain.
“That’s a million students moving across country, cycling in and out of lockdown zones, of bubbles, of homes, into new cities, where we are not tracking those students, we are not testing those students,” she said.
“If the government and universities do not step in and discourage this… we could see universities becoming the care homes of the second wave of Covid-19,” she warned.
Her warning came at a time when countries, such as Britain, China, Russia and the United States, are racing against time to develop coronavirus vaccines.
The British government’s chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance said on Monday that it is possible that some vaccine could be available in small amounts later this year, but it is more likely that a vaccine will be available early next year, although that is not guaranteed.