Covid Christmas: What Covid restrictions mean for students

Under the new national restrictions, it is unlikely students in the UK will enjoy Christmas markets, Oxford Street excursions and sneaky Christmas jumper themed meet ups at the local pub before returning home to their families. In addition, a new three-tier system has been announced to manage the spread of Covid-19 over the Christmas period.

What do lockdown regulations mean for students as the Autumn term comes to an end? Here are a few things you need to know lockdown restrictions and tier systems will affect the end of the term.

Levels of lockdown 

England, Northern Ireland and Scotland have introduced different tiers, or levels, of lockdown which are dependent on location. Within England, regions are placed into one of three tiers: medium, high and very high. Most regions fall under tier two (high) and three (very high) lockdowns. Scotland has placed each of its regions into one of five tiers while Wales continues with a lockdown system independent of tiers.

The different levels of lockdown across the UK means that regions will be affected differently. However, travel restrictions will be lifted across the UK to allow people to visit their families this Christmas. Here are some key points to remember:

  • No matter where you are in the UK, for a period of five days at Christmas time, people will be allowed to form fixed ‘bubbles’ made up of three households.

  • The same three households that form a bubble will be able to meet each other in each other’s homes, at a place of worship and in an outdoor space or garden.

  • University students can return home to their parents and will automatically form part of their household. Students must return home during the Student ‘travel window’.

Student Travel Window

The Government has initiated rules for student movement after lockdown, which includes access to lateral flow devices (LFDs) – rapid turnaround tests - and a ‘student travel window’ to allow students without access to LFDs to return home to their families for Christmas. This may cause uncertainty as to how and when students will get home as universities and the government attempt to stagger the movement of students from campus to their hometowns.

Students will need to return home for Christmas after 2 December. The ‘student travel window’ will last from 3-9 December and will allow students to return home between these dates.

Testing before travel

Students in England will need to undergo Covid-19 testing, sometimes more than once, before being allowed to leave campus or university towns for the Christmas break.

According to a BBC article, rapid Covid tests have been distributed to universities who have opted into the testing scheme. This will allow students to be tested for the virus and return home for Christmas. Students who are tested positive for the coronavirus will need to self-isolate for 10 days in accordance with national rules but will still be able to return home in time for Christmas.

Staggered end of term

Universities have been given instructions to stagger face to face learning between 3 December and 9 December to coincide with the ‘student travel window’. Face to face learning remained in place during the second lockdown as many universities continued to offer students mixed face to face and online learning methods.

International Students

According to the UK Government, international students will be allowed to return home but should consider how they will access course materials overseas. They are urged to also take into account the possibility that travel restrictions may change whilst they are out of the UK.

The government has added: “Where students remain in their university accommodation over the winter break, [Higher Education] providers should continue to make sure they are well looked after. This includes paying particular regard to the specific needs of certain groups during this period, including care leavers, estranged students, and international students who will require access to welfare and mental health support and essential services during the holiday periods.”

Plans for a tier-system lockdown seem ever-changing and the effects on mental health may be overwhelming. If you are a student and are struggling to cope, stay active and healthy, practice mindfulness, and reach out to your wellness counsellor or campus psychologist for help and guidance through this uncertain time. And remember that you are not alone.