Students self-isolating after Covid-19 outbreaks in UK varsities

Hundreds of students have self-isolated after several universities across the UK reported major coronavirus outbreaks on campus just days into the new academic year, media reports said.

In a report on Thursday, the BBC said that the latest outbreak at Glasgow University has led to 124 students testing positive and the university said about 600 people were self-isolating, reports Xinhua news agency.

The university said clusters were reported 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 the UK were already dealing with infected 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 were also reports of confirmed 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, had previously warned that varsities could become the “care homes of the second wave of Covid-19”.

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 the country.

“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.

“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 added.

This development comes after the total number of coronavirus cases in the UK has increased to 418,889, while the death toll stood at 41,991.