"it’s like lots of different households mixing together"
Students could be told to stay at university over the Christmas holidays, according to scientific advice.
Larger Covid-19 outbreaks are expected at the end of the academic term as students move around the country to travel home during their two-week holiday.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) warned:
“This could pose a risk to both local communities and families, and will require national oversight, monitoring and decision making.”
The warnings were also made on Good Morning Britain. Medical professional Dr Hilary Jones made the warning during a chat with presenter Kate Garraway.
He said: “There’s not a lot of good news is there, certainly university campuses [are] likely to be where transmissions are rife.
“When those students come home to all parts of the country, it’s like lots of different households mixing together in close contact.
Dr Hilary added that “if you look at it in the cold light of day, it makes sense, scientifically, to keep those people who are likely to be transmitting more separate from [people who are likely to be] more vulnerable”.
A spokesperson for the Department for Education said:
“We will continue monitoring the situation very closely and follow Public Health England advice, adapting policies to best support students and providers as the situation evolves.”
On whether university students may have to stay at university over Christmas if the situation worsens, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said:
“We haven’t reached that point yet.”
On whether he would consider it, he replied: “I don’t rule out anything.
“And if you have the last nine months that I’ve had, you’d understand why we don’t rule out anything. It’s not something that I want to do.
“But what’s important is that we, of course, keep people safe and keep the virus under control.”
This comes as the University of Liverpool confirmed 87 cases, while the University of Dundee told 500 students to self-isolate after an outbreak in a halls of residence.
Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Unit and former government special adviser to the universities minister, confirmed students could be asked to stay on campus over the holidays.
He said: “Ministers will have to tell students that it’s best you stay away from home this year.
“It is no different from any other situation. If you are following the science then what else can the Government say?”