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University students should be double jabbed by September, says union

Written by on 23/07/2021

All university students should be vaccinated by September and face masks should be compulsory on campus, according to the University and College Union (UCU).

The union has written a letter to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, warning that the chaos seen at universities in the last academic year will be repeated unless strict measures are in place to protect staff and students.

It is calling for vaccinations to be made available to students and strict health and safety measures put in place on campuses.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson during a media briefing in Downing Street
Image: The University and College Union has written a letter to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson

The COVID-19 jab has been approved for young people up to three months before they turn 18 but the union wants all students vaccinated before the start of the new terms in the autumn and wants students to be a priority group.

It is also calling on universities to make face makes compulsory for students and staff, access to free PCR tests and funding from the government to support education recovery.

According to the UCU, at least 45 universities in the UK reported serious COVID-19 outbreaks, with thousands forced to self-isolate in halls and it has warned that universities are especially vulnerable to further outbreaks, with more than one million students travelling across the country to live and study away from home.

The union’s general secretary Jo Gardy described the dropping of social distancing and mask-wearing in England, and the reopening of nightclubs, as “reckless” and a “recipe for disaster”.

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The letter 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.

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“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-19 all over again.”

Ms Grady added: “Students and staff endured totally avoidable chaos in the last academic year, and rightly want to put that behind them, but at present, there is a real danger that the disruption could return as cases surge and restrictions are eased across the UK.

“Our biggest concern remains in England, however, where the government has taken a reckless approach to the removal of restrictions and guidance for educations providers.

“Last year, this complacency led to huge outbreaks, caused chaos for students and burnout for staff, who worked incredibly hard to maintain standards. With the vast majority of universities in England, ministers in Westminster are concocting a recipe for disaster that will threaten public safety.”

Letters have also been sent to the Scottish government and the Northern Ireland executive.

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.”

 Sky News

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