England planning Christmas ‘travel window’ allowing students to return home in December

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By Emma Beswick
University student Piera Gerry moved back in with her parents during the first lockdown. Berkhamsted, England. April 5, 2020.
University student Piera Gerry moved back in with her parents during the first lockdown. Berkhamsted, England. April 5, 2020.   -  Copyright  Elizabeth Dalziel/AP

The UK government has said university students will be able to travel home to spend Christmas with their families during a "travel window" after national lockdown restrictions are set to end on December 2.

"We know this Christmas will feel different, and following this incredibly difficult year, we are delivering on our commitment to getting students back to their loved ones as safely as possible for the holidays," said Universities Minister Michelle Donelan.

Mass testing will be carried out across the country's campuses before students travel home for the festive period.

If a student tests positive before their departure they will need to remain in self-isolation for 10 days.

In guidance published Wednesday, students were told the "student travel window" would be opened between December 3 and December 9, allowing them to go home on staggered departure dates set by universities.

University students will be required to complete the current lockdown that is imposed in the country in their term-time accommodation.

The window will therefore mean students can travel having just completed the four-week period of national restrictions, reducing the risk of transmission to family and friends at home, according to the government.

Universities will work with other institutions in the region to manage pressure on transport infrastructure, the Department of Education said.

The government also said it would encourage universities to introduce remote teaching by December 9 so that students who wish to go home will be able to continue their studies - this marks a change in approach from Boris Johnson's administration.

Testing could start on November 30 under plans laid out in a letter from Donelan.

"The mass movement of students across the country at the end of term presents a really significant challenge within the COVID-19 response," said Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Jenny Harries.

"The measures announced today will help minimise that risk and help students get home to their families as safely as possible for Christmas."

England entered a second confinement period last week in an attempt to stop the spread of coronavirus as cases surged across Europe.

Non-essential shops and businesses, such as pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, gyms, clothes shops and cinemas have been forced to close until at least December 2.

Unlike in the spring lockdown, schools and universities in England will stay open, along with construction sites and factories.

The UK saw a peak of coronavirus cases in October logging the highest number of daily infections since the pandemic began on October 21 with 26,687 recorded in 24 hours.