Warn­ing to fresh­ers as fears grow of cam­pus out­breaks

Scottish Daily Mail - - Coronaviru­s Crisis - By Kate Fos­ter Scot­tish Health Ed­i­tor

SCOT­LAND’S Covid-19 test­ing sys­tem will be stretched to its limit with the re­turn of univer­sity stu­dents, ex­perts have warned.

Four uni­ver­si­ties have been hit by out­breaks even be­fore most cour­ses are due to start this week – and au­thor­i­ties are urg­ing stu­dents to obey so­cial­is­ing rules or face dis­ci­plinary ac­tion.

As fears grow of a coron­avirus sec­ond wave, ex­perts warn stu­dents in need of tests will pile pres­sure on lab­o­ra­to­ries, which are strug­gling to turn around re­sults quickly.

There have been 20 cases at Napier Univer­sity in Ed­in­burgh as well as cases at the uni­ver­si­ties of Glas­gow and Stir­ling.

St An­drews Univer­sity went into a vol­un­tary lock­down over the week­end.

The Univer­sity of Dundee has brought in a tem­po­rary ban on overnight guests in halls of res­i­dences – a move oth­ers may fol­low.

Stu­dents are ex­pected to live in small house­hold groups, in line with Covid-19 guide­lines, and obey so­cial dis­tanc­ing rules. But there have al­ready been com­plaints about par­ties and anti-so­cial be­hav­iour.

Across Scot­land, 22 test­ing cen­tres are be­ing set up in towns and cities but ex­perts fear if stu­dents fail to fol­low guide­lines on gath­er­ings over the com­ing weeks, the test­ing sys­tem could be over­whelmed.

Al­lan Wil­son, pres­i­dent of the In­sti­tute of Bio­med­i­cal Sci­ence, said: ‘Stu­dents don’t just come from around the coun­try, they come from around the world. There is an in­her­ent risk.

‘My con­cern would be if there were fur­ther out­breaks, like we had in Napier. It may mir­ror what hap­pened with schools go­ing back, put­ting pres­sure on the test­ing sys­tem.’

Teach­ing has be­gun at seven uni­ver­si­ties, with six oth­ers start­ing back this week. Five more re­sume classes over the next fort­night.

There are plans for test­ing cen­tres near cam­puses but so far only two have opened – in Glas­gow and St An­drews.

But some re­turn­ing stu­dents are par­ty­ing as nor­mal. Res­i­dents near Napier Univer­sity’s Bain­field halls, which was at the cen­tre of its covid out­break, re­ported last week there was a party at­tended by at least 100 stu­dents.

Linda Bauld, pro­fes­sor of public health at the Univer­sity of Ed­in­burgh, said: ‘To be frank, we should have had walk-through test­ing cen­tres set up be­fore stu­dents went back.

‘Even though there is a lot of ef­fort to get stu­dents to fol­low guide­lines and not min­gle in halls of res­i­dence, they are young adults – so that will be their nat­u­ral in­cli­na­tion. That’s just a ba­sic fact. So you are go­ing to need test­ing ca­pac­ity.’

Mary Se­nior, Scot­land of­fi­cial at the Univer­sity and Col­lege Union, said: ‘This week’s out­break at Napier Univer­sity un­der­lines the need to have test­ing ca­pac­ity ac­ces­si­ble to stu­dents as soon as pos­si­ble.’

Clus­ters of cases forced uni­ver­si­ties in France and the US to close shortly af­ter re­open­ing. On Fri­day,

Na­tional Clin­i­cal Di­rec­tor Pro­fes­sor Ja­son Leitch said he feared out­breaks among univer­sity stu­dents. He added: ‘You can see at Napier Univer­sity how eas­ily and quickly the virus can spread from house­hold to house­hold. Whether that’s a stu­dent house­hold or your own home, it’s the same mes­sage.

‘It’s hard to tell fresh­ers and peo­ple who have just come back to univer­sity af­ter a long break to obey guide­lines and I get how dif­fi­cult that is, but you have to.’

A Scot­tish Govern­ment spokesman said: ‘We are es­tab­lish­ing walk-in cen­tres across Scot­land over the au­tumn and win­ter, with an ini­tial fo­cus on ar­eas with a large stu­dent pop­u­la­tion. There are no hold ups in the de­ploy­ment of walk-in cen­tres.

‘The first one opened in St An­drews and an­other has just opened at Glas­gow Cale­do­nian Univer­sity’s ARC sports cen­tre – and we are on track to have four more sites set up in the next two weeks. The walk-in cen­tres are open to any­one.’

‘Go­ing to need test­ing ca­pac­ity’

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