Britain’s leading higher education union has reportedly warned that university campuses may become the “care homes of the second wave of COVID-19.”
In an interview with Sky News, The University and College Union (UCU) has condemned Boris Johnson’s government for moving forward with plans to reopen university campuses over September, saying that such a move poses a danger to public health.
According to UCU General Secretary, Jo Grady, the start of the university year sees “the biggest migration of people on an annual basis in the UK.”
Issuing a gram warning, Ms. Grady then asserted, “That’s a million students, moving across country, cycling in and out of lockdown zones, of bubbles, of homes, into new cities, where we are not track and tracing those students, we are not testing those students… We are seriously concerned that if the government and universities do not step in and discourage this… we could see universities becoming the care homes of the second wave of COVID-19.”
— Jo Grady (@DrJoGrady) August 30, 2020
Care homes - particularly for the elderly - were hit hard throughout the harshest days of the UK’s battle with coronavirus. According to The Office for National Statistics, there were 19,394 deaths that involved COVID-19 in UK care homes during the period between March 2nd-June 12th 2020.
According to Sky, the UCU is demeaning that the government should at the very least implement mandatory COVID-19 testing on students upon arrival at university.
There is increasing alarm among the UK’s higher education institutions that they will lose major sources of revenue as a consequence of prospective students deferring entry for a year in order to avoid a possible second coronavirus outbreak while at university. Therefore, the UCU has argued that the government should “do the right thing by public health” and provide financial incentives to those universities that are moving tutoring online.
Despite those calls, the Department of Education appears set on reopening university campus gates over September and October.
A spokesperson has been quoted as saying that, “we are confident that universities are well-prepared for the return of students.”
“The safety and well-being of university staff and students is always our priority. We are keeping our guidance under constant review, and are currently updating our advice… including on face coverings.”