Vaccinate all UK university students by September, union says | Universities

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University staff are demanding full vaccination of all students by September and mandatory masks on campus to prevent the Delta variant from spreading to universities in the new academic year.

The Union of Universities and Colleges (UCU) has written to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, warning that the Covid chaos seen in universities last year will be repeated unless strict measures are in place to protect staff and students.

The union wants all students to be doubly vaccinated before the start of the term in September, with vaccines made available to younger students in higher education once approved by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization.

It also calls on universities to “provide and enforce” the wearing of high-quality face masks by staff and students, access to free PCR tests and government funding to support the resumption of education.

He wants solid health and safety risk assessments ahead of the new academic year, building modifications to improve ventilation, measures for effective social distancing and improved mental health services for students.

At the height of the pandemic last winter, at least 45 universities reported serious outbreaks of Covid, with thousands of students – many away from home for the first time – forced to isolate themselves in hallways, often sick with the virus and sometimes without enough food.

With high infection rates and Covid restrictions lifted across England this week, the union has warned universities are particularly vulnerable to new outbreaks, with more than a million students traveling across the country to live and study away from home.

The UCU called the end of social distancing and the wearing of masks in England, as well as the reopening of nightclubs, “reckless” and “a recipe for disaster.”

The letter to the Education Secretary said: “Last year ministers gave the green light to the mass movement of students across the country and failed to recognize the effect it would have on infections, on those who work and study in the sector, and on the communities at large. of which they become a part.

‘As the Westminster government removes all restrictions and associated public health guidelines, there is a real danger that unless we learn key lessons from last year, our educational institutions will once again become incubators for Covid -19. Letters were also sent to the Scottish government and the Northern Irish executive.

Covid vaccines have been approved for young people up to three months before their 18th birthday, but UCU says students should be treated as a priority group to ensure they are fully immunized by September, in time for the start of the quarter.

UCU General Secretary Jo Grady said: “Students and staff have experienced completely preventable chaos over the past year at university, and rightly want to put that behind them, but right now , there is a real danger that the disruption will return as cases increase and restrictions are relaxed across the UK.

“To protect student education, it is essential that governments and providers work with unions to ensure that vital health and safety measures are in place on campus, including the provision and mandatory wearing of masks. . A return to the level of disruption experienced last year would be unforgivable. “

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said, “We strongly encourage all students to accept the offer of both doses of the vaccine as soon as they become eligible. We also recommend that face coverings be worn in enclosed, overcrowded spaces where people may come into contact with people they do not normally meet, or in the event of a local outbreak. “

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