Students in Wales returning home for Christmas are being asked to travel by 9 December at the latest.
New covid-19 tests, designed to diagnose people without symptoms, will be provided to students who are planning to travel home for the holiday.
Universities across Wales will also end the majority of ‘in person’ lessons in the week ending 8th December, allowing anyone who tests positive for coronavirus to self-isolate for 14 days before travelling home for the Christmas break.
Students at universities in Wales who plan to travel home for the holidays will be asked to:
- Minimise their social contacts in the run-up to the end of term;
- Get an asymptomatic test, ideally within 24 hours of their intended travel time. New asymptomatic testing facilities will be available at participating universities in Wales within the next few weeks;
- Plan to travel no later than 9th December, allowing time to rearrange their travel plans in case they need to self-isolate;
- Familiarise themselves with their university’s plans for concluding in-person teaching and arrangements to ensure people can exit campuses safely.
The Welsh Government said that they will communicate directly with Welsh students at universities elsewhere in the UK.
“Many students will wish to return home for the Christmas break and I’m pleased to confirm arrangements to enable that,” Kirsty Williams, the Education Minister, said.
“Our priority, and the priority for our universities, has been to enable students to travel home safely, while minimising the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.
“It’s also important students take action to minimise the chances they could bring the virus back home to friends and family members, who may be far more vulnerable to its effects. That’s why we’re asking students to limit their social contacts as they’re preparing to travel home. The more people socialise, the greater their risk of contracting coronavirus.
“We have been working with the other nations to ensure that all students, no matter where they live or study, are treated fairly and can travel home as safely as possible.
“We are also working with our universities to roll out the asymptomatic mass testing pilot before the end of term. I would encourage students to sign up for the testing pilot to make returning home at the end of term easier.
“I have been determined that students here in Wales are able to spend the holidays where they most want to, in a safe way, and these arrangements will allow that to happen.”
Suzy Davies MS – the Welsh Conservative Shadow Education Minister – said that she welcomed the announcement.
“Now that tests can clearly be made available at short notice and short turn around, this looks very promising for the new term,” she said.
“Universities should be homing in on this to get more face-to-face learning back up and running, rather than relaxing into a position where everything is online.
“Fears about safety is a real threat to university finances if it means students don’t return. A wholly online experience is also a deterrent and raises questions about ‘value for money’, which Welsh Conservatives have raised before, and so testing should be for university life, not just for Christmas.”