Students free to leave for Christmas as restrictions continue

The university has unveiled its plan for managing the Christmas break, as thousands of students are set to leave the city over the next month.

In an email to students, the Deputy Secretary for Student Experience – Gavin Douglas – reiterated the Scottish government’s request that there are “staggered and early departures from campuses.”

However, Douglas added that “we expect that this staggering will happen naturally as you will all have different plans based on factors such as the end of teaching on your courses, exam dates, travel arrangements, and so on”.

The decision not to impose specific travel restrictions on students will come as a relief to them and their families with many students unsure of the date they are expected to return home, and unsure if they need to isolate upon arrival.

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In a bid to minimise the strain public transport will come under, the university are asking that students report their Christmas plans, to determine how many students will be remaining on campus –
believed to be predominantly international students – and when students expect to travel home, so the University can “map out the likely pattern of departures”.

Students will also be eligible for two separate Covid-19 tests provided by the Scottish Government and the University, with two negative tests making them “eligible for departure”.

However, it is unclear as of yet whether this testing is compulsory or optional, which may undermine the efficiency of the operation, which seeks to prevent students transferring the virus around the country onto vulnerable people.

The announcement comes as it was announced that the City of Edinburgh would remain under Tier 3 restrictions for another fortnight, disappointing many in the city who were hoping for an easing of restrictions after the number of new cases had begun to steadily decline after a spike in mid-September.

In the week to 8th November, Edinburgh had seen 85 in every 100,000 people test positive for coronavirus, lower than the Scottish national average of 93.

Nicola Sturgeon acknowledged that the 5-tier system has curbed the spread of the virus “very significantly”, and suggested that whilst infection rates in West Lothian, Glasgow, and elsewhere remained “stubbornly high”, she remained optimistic that measures could be downgraded in Edinburgh in time for Christmas.

Despite this, there are fears that the maintaining of current restrictions damages the likelihood of greater teaching in person next semester.

In a statement prepared for The Student, by the Association’s Sabbatical Officers, EUSA remained upbeat about provisions made with regard to student welfare.

“We are working with the University to ensure that those students who are staying here over the [Christmas] break are not forgotten about.

“We are also in regular conversations with NUS Scotland who are lobbying Scottish Government [sic] to ensure sufficient attention and provisions are given to students during this time.”

The statement also emphasises the importance of student voices in shaping University policy, with a reminder for “students to share their experiences with us so we can continue to push for improvements”.

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By Callum Devereux

Editor-in-Chief, May-September 2022
Former Deputy EiC & Opinion Editor