St Andrews University: Coronavirus outbreak after Freshers' Week party in halls

21 September 2020, 14:44 | Updated: 21 September 2020, 14:50

St Andrews has asked students to stay in 'voluntary lockdown'
St Andrews has asked students to stay in 'voluntary lockdown'. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

Four students at St Andrews University have tested positive for coronavirus after a Freshers’ Week party. 

More than 40 students are now in enforced self-isolation and the institution’s entire student body has been asked to stay in “voluntary lockdown”

The latest infections, linked to a single party in a hall of residence, bring the total at the university to seven - all “comparatively mild illness”. 

Vice-chancellor Sally Mapstone said: “Quite apart from the fact that the party broke the law, and our own very clear guidelines on socialising and safe behaviour, the ripples from this single incident have consequences for all of us.”

St Andrews students were urged to stay at home and avoid partying, bars or mixing with other households on Friday as the university introduced a “voluntary lockdown” with hours notice. 

Students and academics expressed anger at the move, saying they should not have been invited back to campus only to be shut away days later. 

Ms Mapstone told students on Monday morning that the measures would continue. “Please do not socialise with anyone outside your household group,” she said. “Please do not arrange or attend parties unless they are only attended by your immediate household group. 

“You should continue to attend the in person teaching already underway in some of our practical-based degree modules, to go to work if you have a job, and to take exercise as normal.”

Around one million students are returning to campuses this month, with most institutions confining students to "bubbles" in residences and teaching mostly online.

Read more: St Andrews students tell of anger at 'voluntary lockdown'

Read more: St Andrews University asked students to stay in rooms and not party

Freshers’ Week at St Andrews, which began on 7 September, also saw police called to disperse a gathering of about 50 young people on a beach in the Fife town.

Natasha Thomson, a St Andrews resident, told LBC: “With the massive gathering at the beach in St Andrews, all the police did was go down and told them to move on. No fines were issued and no one arrested. Yet if that was the normal locals, I can guarantee there would have been at least fines made.

“A lot of students are well behaved, but some of them really are not. They think they’re invincible… and it is due to stupid actions like this, that's putting us back into lockdown yet again.”

A poll for the University and College Union found 57 per cent of residents in 25 university towns and cities fear returning students will prompt local lockdown restrictions in their area. 

Earlier this month, the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said it was “highly likely” that there would be “significant outbreaks” linked to universities.