Coronavirus and Studying at University 20/21: The New Normal
So, what will university be like this year?
Understandably, as a student returning to or starting their studies at university this year, there will be some confusion or angst with everything going on.
What are the new campus rules?
What can and can't students do on campus?
How will the new rules announced on the 22nd September by Boris Johnson affect students this academic year?
We aim to clear it up a little in this article.
The rule of 6 and new restrictions (it is tightening up!)
On Monday 14th September, the UK Government introduced the new "rule of 6", which restricts people from meeting in groups of more than 6, unless part of the same household or part of a "support bubble".
A "support bubble" is a group of individuals that have come together during this time to help each other.
The support bubble can comprise of people from separate households but, quite significantly, after the formation of the bubble, the members must stick to that bubble and not switch into a new one.
The bubble acts as one household, so members can go to each other's homes and do not need to distance from each other socially. If someone in the bubble starts to show symptoms, everyone within the bubble must self-isolate.
As of 22nd September, the above is still valid, but there are further restrictions to be put in place:
- From Thursday 24th September, all restaurants, pubs and bars across the country will have to close their doors by 10pm and can only offer a sit-down table service within their premises.
- Face coverings will now have to be worn by all staff in retail, indoor hospitality & those operating public transport such as taxis.
- The "COVID secure guidelines" are now legal obligations for businesses in hospitality & attractions. Those who breach these rules could be closed for good. These can be found here.
- As of Monday 28th September, weddings and receptions will be limited to 15 people. Funerals will be limited to 30 people.
- The rule of 6 now also applies to all "adult indoor team sports".
COVID cases on the rise for 20-29s
In the last few weeks, reports have come in that the 20-29 age group has seen the highest increase in new cases of coronavirus. Whilst this has not led to increased deaths at the time of writing this, due to this age group of people (20-29) and the fact that some may contract the virus and have light to no symptoms, the country is on alert as these people could pass COVID onto the older demographics who are at more risk.
So, what does all of this mean for University Students?
The government has outlined that any student who contracts coronavirus whilst at university and on-campus must self-isolate at the university and not travel home to help reduce the spread of the virus.
Studying at University in the North of England
The North of England has seen the most significant increase, as can be seen on the map below. Areas such as Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Newcastle have seen the most significant increases.
For this reason, universities in the north of England have had to act fast to ensure students, staff and the general public are safe as thousands of students flock back to campuses.
Looking at Newcastle and Northumbria University, around 50,000 students will be heading to the north to attend. We are sure that more universities throughout the country will be following suit in the coming weeks and months.
In the towns and cities where students will be attending for their studies this month, locals are concerned about the influx of young people coming to the area and potentially endangering older residents.
Some things student have to look forward to this year at Newcastle University:
- Prohibiting private gatherings & parties that do not adhere to "the rule of 6."
- Large sanitizing stations will be available across most campuses (with free hand sanitizer, free masks, free wipes and more)
- Alcohol will be in the form of hand sanitizers in welcome bags, which will also contain advice from the local council on how to operate when outside of the campus within the local community.
- Vigorous adherence to social distancing
- Where adherence to the 2-metre social distancing rule is impossible, it is mandatory to wear a mask.
- One-way routes marked in corridors
- Rearranging timetables to avoid student ques around campus
- Increasing cleaning schedules for learning spaces, accommodations and throughout the campus
- Temperature checks for students when arriving at lectures
- Screens and barriers installed where applicable.
Study Bubbles - An interesting idea!
At the University of Leicester, they are introducing "live and learn bubbles" for first-year students. The "live and learn bubbles" are an innovative idea that aims to reduce the spread of the virus by limiting the number of unnecessary contacts people have.
Each bubble will contain other students in a living block or contain other students who have the same classes as each other.
Students in these bubbles will not have to socially-distance from others in the bubble, as essentially a new household has been formed.
Other than that, it is a typical day at uni! 😊
One of the most interesting changes at Newcastle University is that if someone reports having coronavirus symptoms, they must log it using the student app, which will help onsite staff manage cases, potential spreads and more.
The North of England, especially Newcastle, have found it harder to contain the spread than in the south. For this reason, they are currently still on the government's local lockdown watchlist. For others on this list, please click here to visit the gov.uk website.
As expected at this time, universities are offering some of their courses, or part of their courses, online. Taking courses online will help a lot in reducing the risk of spreading the virus, which is exactly what we need right now.
For more information on which courses have an online component, please visit the website of the university in question.
We do not know how long these new measures will last for, but as we have seen an increase in cases for a second time, we can only imagine that these measures will be in place for some time to come and we shall be feeling the effect of them for even longer.
All universities may be integrating their COVID mitigation plans slightly differently, so we would be interested to know what provisions your universities have in place for the coming months. Let us know on our socials!
To all of you attending uni this year, we wish you the best of luck with your studies and hope you stay safe and mindful!
Thanks for reading
The Spaceways Team