New guidance has been brought in for students in Scotland - here are the rules
On the evening of Thursday 24 September, it was announced that students in Scotland should not go to any pubs or restaurants, following a rise in coronavirus cases.
Hundreds of students across the country’s university campuses have tested positive for the virus, with many now self-isolating.
But what exactly are the rules for students in Scotland now? Here’s everything you need to know.
Can students go to pubs and restaurants?
Although two households, up to a maximum of six people, are still currently allowed to meet outdoors and in pubs, but not indoors, students are being asked to not go to pubs and other hospitality venues this weekend (25 to 27 September), in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19.
However, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reminded students that the advice to stay away from pubs and restaurants was "just for this weekend.”
Can students meet with other people outside of their households?
Students can currently only mix with others in their household, as they are being told that they cannot meet with others outside of their households and accommodation.
Universities Scotland said the new guidance had been agreed with the Scottish government and was a "necessary step at this crucial moment of managing the virus in the student population, to protect students and the wider community.”
The new rules state that all universities will "make absolutely clear to students that there must be no parties, and no socialising outside their households.”
They added, "This weekend, the first of the new tighter Scottish government guidance, we will require students to avoid all socialising outside of their households and outside of their accommodation.
"We will ask them not to go to bars or other hospitality venues."
Can students go home to see their parents?
Students are also not able to go home to see their families, as the Scottish government recently banned different households from mixing.
Jason Leitch, the Scottish government’s national clinical director, wrote on Twitter on Thursday, “Was asked last night whether students in halls and flats can go back to parents’ homes.
“To clarify, they are a separate household.
“There are exceptions, eg caring responsibilities, but the law is clear: they can’t meet indoors with another household - even mum and dad. Sorry.”
Why is this new guidance in place?
This new government guidance has been put in place as several universities across the country have seen major outbreaks of the virus.
Many students in halls of residence in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen are all being told to self-isolate.
There are 600 students at Glasgow University currently in isolation, while all 500 residents at the Parker House halls in Dundee have been told to quarantine.
Edinburgh Napier University has also seen an outbreak of 120 cases.
How will the guidance be overseen?
Extra staff will be brought into student accommodation in order to watch for any breaches of the guidance, alongside supporting students who are self-isolating.
Police Scotland will also be monitoring student behaviour off-campus and in private accommodation, with private providers of student accommodation urged to enforce the guidance.
A ‘yellow and red card system’ will be brought into place in regards to breaches of the guidelines.
The guidance explains, "We will take a strict 'Yellow Card/Red Card' approach to breaches of student discipline that put students and others at risk.
"While we first want to advise students about breaches of discipline, we will not hesitate to escalate this to disciplinary action including potential discontinuation of study."
Students will also be required to download the Protect Scotland app.
The Protect Scotland app from NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect is a free app which has been designed “to help us protect each other and reduce the spread of coronavirus.”
The app will alert you if you have been in close contact with another app user who tests positive for coronavirus. If you test positive, it can help in determining any contacts that you may have otherwise missed, while also keeping your information private and anonymous.
How have students reacted?
The new guidance has proved controversial, with some people expressing their annoyance with the changes and claiming the new rules are unfair on students.
President of the National Union of Students Scotland, Matt Crill, said the announcement showed "complete disregard" for the mental health and wellbeing of students, alongside unfairly blaming students for the spread of Covid-19.
Mr Crilly said, “Tonight’s announcement by Universities Scotland and endorsed by the Scottish government unfairly blames students for the spread of coronavirus and takes the unjustified step of applying different rules to students over and above the rest of the adult population.”
A Twitter user commented, “Why in scotland can you work in a pub, but can’t go there after for a drink with the people you live with? and why can’t universities provide covid tests so their students can go home?”
This was reiterated by Scotland’s University and College Union official, Mary Senior, who said it was “astonishing” that students were being blamed for the spread of coronavirus, and that universities should switch to online teaching instead.
Ms Senior said, “That is what the Scottish government should be introducing, not threatening students with red cards and banning them from going out.”
A current student also tweeted, “It’s scary times. Soon I won’t be able to see my own family due to Scotland’s restrictions. I’m genuinely terrified.”
Those who have already been to university are also expressing their thoughts on the difficulties current students are facing.
One Twitter user wrote, “I feel for students in halls just starting out with few new friends and now they are told to stay lockdowned (in Scotland). I would have found that tough when I was at Uni all those years ago.”
A version of this article originally appeared on our sister title, The Scotsman.