Coronavirus: Some uni students 'may have to self-isolate' in run-up to Christmas, education secretary says

29 September 2020, 12:44 | Updated: 29 September 2020, 13:20

University students will be able to return home for Christmas, but Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said some students may have to self-isolate at the end of term.

Speaking to the Commons, Mr Williamson said: "I know there has been some anxiety about the impact safety measures will have on the Christmas holidays.

"We are going to work with universities to make sure that all students are supported to return home safely and spend Christmas with their loved ones if they choose to do so."

However, he said some students may have to self-isolate at the end of term - which could involve ending face-to-face learning early if needed.

The education secretary said it is "essential" that measures are put in place to make sure students can return home for the holidays if they want to.

He added that further guidance will be published "so that every student will be able to spend Christmas with their family".

At least 33 universities in the UK have confirmed cases of coronavirus, while another two have suspected cases, according to Sky News research.

Thousands of students are having to self-isolate, including around 1,700 at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Mr Williamson said universities have been asked to provide "additional help and practical support" to students, including ensuring those self-isolating have access to food, medical and cleaning supplies.

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Thanking students for their co-operation so far, he said: "We will never be in a position where we can eliminate all risk.

"But we will not condemn a generation of young people by asking them to put their lives on hold for months or years ahead.

"We believe that universities are very well prepared to handle any outbreaks as they arise."

Shadow education secretary Kate Green warned that if Mr Williamson does not "get a grip", the situation in universities could get worse.