“In order to travel home safely, students in England will be required to follow the current national restrictions in place until 2 December, completing this four-week period in their term-time accommodation,” the Department of Education said in a statement.
Students will travel home on time slots set by their universities, which will offer them COVID-19 tests before their departure, and will have to move learning online from 9 December.
English students at universities in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, where different COVID-19 restrictions apply, should follow the guidance relevant to where they are living before returning home, the government said.
“We have worked really hard to find a way to do this for students, while limiting the risk of transmission. Now it is vital they follow these measures to protect their families and communities, and for universities to make sure students have all the wellbeing support they need, especially those who stay on campus over the break,” Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said, as quoted in the statement.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries said that the mass movement of students across the country at the end of term poses a “really significant challenge” within the country´s COVID-19 response.
The National Union of Students welcomed the announcement, particularly the mass-testing approach, but said they now need a clear strategy for January return.
The UK has recorded 49,770 deaths and 1,233,775 positive coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.