University students in Wales should return home for Christmas by 9 December

11 November 2020, 16:00

Students in Wales will be tested for Covid-19 before they are allowed to leave for home
Students in Wales will be tested for Covid-19 before they are allowed to leave for home. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Universities in Wales will end in-person learning in the week up to 8 December to enable students to return home "as safely as possible" for Christmas.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams said students who are planning to travel must "make arrangements to move from their term-time accommodation" by 9 December at the latest.

The Welsh Government is working with universities in Wales on an asymptomatic mass testing pilot to explore the use of lateral flow devices, she told a press conference in Cardiff.

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"We are working with our universities to roll out the pilot before the end of term," Ms Williams said.

"We would encourage students, and staff if they want to, to sign up for the asymptomatic testing to give added reassurance around returning home and spending time with loved ones at the end of term."

It follows a similar plan announced or students in England, with mass testing due to be rolled out at most universities by the end of November and students leaving for home in early December.

Students are asked to follow Welsh Government guidelines, with no-one travelling if they have symptoms, a positive test or if they have been asked to self-isolate by a contact tracer.

Universities in Wales are seeing a "steady decline" in cases of coronavirus, Education Minister Kirsty Williams has said.

"Evidence shows transmission is not taking place in the teaching and learning environment. Universities are operating Covid-secure campuses," Ms Williams said.

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"Our universities have also agreed to develop a phased exit from campus and university towns to reduce pressure on public transport and travel infrastructure."

She described the need to balance people's rights and support their wellbeing as well as protecting families, friends and communities from risk of infection "remains very challenging".

Ms Williams urged people to consider what changes they could make to "keep ourselves and our loved ones safe".

Students at universities in Wales are being asked to "stay put" and not return to their families until the first week of December, Education Minister Kirsty Williams has said.

"We're asking students to stay put, to continue to engage in their learning but we've agreed with the universities that that provision will change in the first week of December, thus allowing students to go home," she said.

"I would encourage students to stay where they are at the moment, and crucially to follow the Welsh Government guidelines by limiting their contacts, thus keeping themselves and the people that they live with as safe as possible.

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Ms Williams said she was "confident" that lateral flow tests provided a "really useful tool" for extra reassurance for students or staff that were looking to travel to be with their families over Christmas.

When asked whether testing before travelling would be mandatory, Ms Williams replied: "Let me be clear, with regards to asymptomatic testing, we can't force people to take a test.

"We're providing that availability for them so that they can make a positive choice if they feel that that is right for them but they will not be forced to take a test."