Will university students cause a Christmas Covid crisis?
4th September 2020

Will university students cause a Christmas Covid crisis? Undergraduates could trigger a virus upsurge this winter, SAGE fears

  • Experts predict ‘peak health impacts’ occur between Christmas and New Year
  • They warn students returning home in mid-December could be asymptomatic 
  • Sage urge Government to set up rigorous test and trace strategy for universities 

University students could trigger a virus upsurge over Christmas when they return home at the end of term, Government scientists have warned.

They say there is a ‘critical risk’ that undergraduates will seed outbreaks across the country, putting their vulnerable family members at risk.

Experts at Sage predict the ‘peak health impacts’ would occur between Christmas and New Year. 

They say there is a ‘critical risk’ that undergraduates will seed outbreaks across the country, putting their vulnerable family members at risk

Most students return home in mid-December. 

Many could be asymptomatic and it is likely there would be a one to two-week lag before the virus was passed on to friends and relatives.

Minutes published yesterday of a meeting on Thursday reveal that the scientists also predict that infection rates within universities will increase steadily throughout the autumn term. 

They urge the Government to set up a rigorous test and trace strategy for universities.

The Universities and College Union, which represents academics, has already warned that students returning at the end of this month will trigger a ‘silent avalanche of infections’. 

General secretary Jo Grady said the Sage report ‘exposes how wrong it was to try to pretend it would be almost business as usual’ and called for online teaching to be the ‘default position’.

She added: ‘The worry now is how ill-prepared the Government and universities appear to be.’

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