The University and College Union (UCU) remains unconvinced that it is safe for university life to return to normal and has urged the Education Secretary to see that all students are fully vaccinated by September. It is also demanding that universities continue to impose mask mandates on campus. The Guardian has the story.
The UCU has written to… Gavin Williamson, warning that the Covid chaos seen in universities last year will be repeated unless strict measures are in place to protect staff and students.
The union wants all students to be double vaccinated before the start of term in September, with jabs made available to younger students in further education once approved by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
It is also calling on universities to “provide and mandate” the wearing of high-quality face masks by both staff and students, access to free PCR tests, and funding from the Government to support education recovery.
It wants robust health and safety risk assessments ahead of the new academic year, modifications to buildings to improve ventilation, measures to allow for effective social distancing, and improved mental health provision for students. …
The UCU described the dropping of social distancing and mask-wearing in England, and the reopening of nightclubs, as “reckless” and a “recipe for disaster”.
The letter to the Education Secretary said: “Last year, ministers green-lit the mass movement of students across the country and failed to recognise the effect this would have on infections, on those working and studying in the sector, and on the wider communities of which they become a part.
“As the Westminster Government removes all restrictions and the associated public health guidance, there is a real danger that unless we learn key lessons from last year, our education settings become incubators for Covid all over again.” Letters have also been sent to the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland executive.
Covid jabs have been approved for young people up to three months before their 18th birthday, but the UCU says students should be treated as a priority group to ensure they are fully vaccinated before September, in time for the start of term. …
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We strongly encourage all students to take up the offer of both vaccine doses as soon as they become eligible. We also recommend that face coverings are worn in enclosed and crowded spaces where people may come into contact with people they do not normally meet, or in the event of a local outbreak.”
Some universities will not need any persuading. Students at the University of Oxford, for example, have been told that rules on mask-wearing and social distancing will remain unchanged, despite the passing of “Freedom Day”.
The Guardian report is worth reading in full.