Ben HaywardSeptember 8th

As students prepare to return  in the next couple of weeks, universities in Greater Manchester have joined forces to issue a joint warning.

With roughly 100,000 students due to arrive in the region, institutions are urging them to avoid the normal schedule of large-scale events that typically take place throughout the Freshers’ period. 

With restrictions tightening on both local and national scales over the past few days, including a nationwide ban on meetings of more than six people announced late on Monday evening, concerns are growing around the potential impacts on an already growing number of cases.

Bolton currently has the highest rate of COVID-19 cases in the UK while other areas including City of Manchester, Salford and Trafford also continue to see high numbers of positive test results.

With this is mind, it’s feared that an influx of young people – whom the Health Secretary Matt Hancock has partially blamed for the spike in cases – attending social gatherings and events could push the Greater Manchester region to an uncontrollable surge. 

As a result, Vice-chancellors and student officers from the Universities of Bolton, Manchester, Salford, Manchester Metropolitan University and the Royal Northern College of Music have come together to remind students to stick to the rules.

In a joint statement, the leaders of the five universities said: “This is a special time in the university calendar, where we welcome new students to campus for the first time as well as welcoming many more back.

“This September, though, is like no other, not just for our students, but also for the communities in which they live and study.

“Across our universities, staff and students have worked tirelessly in the fight against Covid-19 – many on the front line in healthcare, volunteering, or at the sharp end of research to treat those suffering with the virus or to protect those at risk.

“This commitment to fighting Covid-19 continues as we bring students back on to campus and surrounding areas in our cities.

“As new and returning students join our community, we remind them of their responsibilities in minimising the transmission of the virus in our city region and in acting as ambassadors for our universities in the areas where they live and socialise.”

All universities have pledged to “use sanctions for students who do not adhere to rules on safe behaviours.”

As well as the warnings, a wide range of measures are being brought in to try and keep the spread of the virus under control.

These include:

  • Keeping all lectures online during the first semester

  • Staggered arrival in halls of residence

  • Free masks

  • Free accommodation to overseas students who need to quarantine

  • A reduced freshers week programme

  • An app to help the NHS track and trace system

  • Reduced opening hours of certain facilities, including libraries

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