The government has “put into place a travel exemption which means that students can travel home, and back to their term time accommodation once, during their Easter break,” despite reiterating that students who have returned to university should remain there if possible.
Students wishing to make use of this exemption are encouraged by the government, on the Department for Education’s “Education in the media” blog, to use coronavirus testing resources available at university before leaving campus, and to utilise community testing before returning to university for the summer term.
Although it was stated that students already back on campus should stay there over the Easter vacation unless they had compelling “mental health and wellbeing reasons,” the exemption meaning that students could return home once during the vacation did not seem to be limited in any way.
As well as setting out this travel exemption, the Department for Education continued to explain its plan for the gradual return of all students, beginning Monday 8th March with students “on practical courses and those who need to access to [sic] facilities and equipment on campus.” It is hoped that all students could be back “by the end of the Easter holidays.”
The return will be aided by the availability of mass testing. The DfE says that it is working to ensure that students will be able to get two coronavirus tests immediately following their return, and two weekly tests from then on. The University of Oxford’s coronavirus news webpage suggests that the university “expect to be able to offer regular asymptomatic testing to all students as well as staff working on-site from Trinity term.”
In other encouraging news for Oxford students, the government statement added that “evidence from SAGE suggests that the risk of transmitting the virus through face-to-face teaching is low.” Therefore, the main risk to be managed is the “mass movement of students” as they return to campuses across the country. Once this is complete, it will be hoped that the University can thus fulfil its plans to return to face-to-face teaching as soon as possible in Trinity term.
When contacted for comment, the University of Oxford directed students to its weekly Student News Bulletin which will likely be sent out today. The Oxford Blue has seen a preview of this message, which says that the “University is urgently seeking clarification” on what the travel exemption means for students given that “detailed guidance has not yet been published”. In the meantime, it points students to its welfare and wellbeing guide of support which is designed to help students both back in Oxford and at home.
Image Credits: Kristina D.C. Hoeppner on Flickr