Prime Minister Boris Johnson has today announced that students on practical courses, and those requiring on-site facilities or assessments will return to University campuses from the 8th of March.
Students who do not fit the criteria will remain being taught online for the forseeable future, with a review of “the options at the end of the Easter Holidays”, the Prime Minister told Parliament.
Students will be given a week’s notice ahead of any further re-opening, with the government acknowledging the “difficulties and disruption that this may cause for many students and their families”.
Richard Taylor, Loughborough’s Chief Operating Officer, told students this afternoon that they “are now assessing the implications of these for the University’s operations and intend to write tomorrow (Tuesday) with more detail”, including on arrangements for after Easter.
The news comes as the Prime Minister unveiled his ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown, which comprised of four steps, each five weeks apart.
Roadmap for Unlocking
March 8th – Step 1 will start with the opening of all schools and recreation between two people in public outdoor spaces permitted – similar to the rules in the November lockdown.
March 29th – The second half of Step 1 will allow outdoor gatherings of up to 6 people or 2 households, including in private gardens. Outdoor sports will continue, and outdoor facilities will reopen. The legal requirement to stay at home will also be removed.
April 12th – Non-essential retail, pub gardens, indoor gyms and leisure facilities and self-catered holiday accommodation will all reopen. Indoor settings will still see social contact rules apply.
May 17th – The ‘rule of 6’ will be abolished for outdoor gatherings, and replaced with a ‘rule of 30’. Two households will be able to mix indoors, with a 6-person limit in indoor hospitality. Cinemas, hotels and performances will re-open, with some spectators allowed at sporting events.
June 21st – All legal limits on social contact could be removed, with the final areas of the economy, including nightclubs, reopened for the first time in 15 months.
A Conditional Relaxation
The Prime Minister reiterated that any of these changes will still require a set of conditions to be passed to be enacted.
- The coronavirus vaccine programme goes to plan
- Vaccines are sufficiently reducing the number of people dying or in hospital with the virus
- Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospital admissions
- New variants of the virus do not change the risk level
He assured Parliament that if these were kept to, the economy could be re-opened in time for summer.
Whilst other nations of the UK are taking different approaches, they are all broadly expected to stay in step with England, although the Prime Minister did warn that regional restrictions on certain areas of the country could be imposed if cases went out of control.
Nationally, cases have been dropping at a dramatic rate, with the high-speed of vaccine distribution showing some signs of pushing the disease’s prevalence down.
Charnwood, however, has seen a rise in cases since the 11th of February, which aligns with the return of limited numbers of students for in-person teaching at the start of term.
Over 1,000 students are currently estimated to be back in Loughborough, with numbers of students now expected to rise once again from the 8th of March.
All students are being offered weekly tests to mitigate the risk, however, with those using campus facilities required to conduct them. Nationally, over 600,000 lateral flow tests have been conducted at Universities since last year.
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Header image under Parliamentary copyright / Jessica Taylor. Images are reproduced with the permission of Parliament