University students risk spreading virus during holidays, experts warn

They said student migration at the start of holidays “may warrant more attention” than at the end as universities could “act as amplifiers”.

In a document published by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), scientists advising the government said: ”If there is an outbreak at a university (even if not widespread transmission), then students returning home could pose a risk for spread across the UK.

“This will be further exacerbated if people return infected but asymptomatic.”

They said students are also more likely to be “integrated with the wider community” at home rather than when they are living at university.

Students going home during university holidays could risk spreading coronavirus around the country, UK government experts have warned.

Scientistic advisers raised the alarm over potential outbreaks on campus, and what may happen when people travel home as term finishes.

Universities started switching to online teaching and cancelling exams earlier this year as the UK’s coronavirus outbreak got worse.

In a paper called “Risks associated with the reopening of education settings in September“, government scientific advisers said another potential concern was if students decide to return to their family on falling ill with coronavirus to quarantine there.

“All measures to reduce the risk and size of outbreaks within universities and rapid detection and containment of outbreaks within universities would all help limit transmission to the wider community,” the Children’s Task & Finish Group report said.

Experts on the Sage subcommittee also raised concerns about the lack of capacity on public transport when all children in England return to school full-time in September.

The document – which was released on Friday – said: “Internal DfT (Department for Transport) modelling suggests that there is likely to only be capacity to accommodate a minority of children who use public transport to get to school in September, whilst maintaining social distancing.

“Alternative modes of transport, or staggered starts, are likely to be necessary. Capacity looks particularly limited in London.”

The advisers also called for the term “bubbles” to be dropped when referring to children in school who are allowed to interact with each other amid concerns that it risks confusion with household bubbles.

Schools started welcoming more pupils back at the start of June after months of closure due to coronavirus, where they were only allowed to open for children of key workers and vulnerable students.

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