Vaccinate all UK university students by September, says union

University staff are demanding the full vaccination of all students by September and compulsory face masks on campus to stop the Delta variant from ripping through universities in the new academic year.

The University and College Union (UCU) has written to the education secretary, 加文·威廉姆森(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 double vaccinated before the start of term in September, with jabs made available to younger students in further education once approved by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

It is also calling on universities to “provide and mandate” the wearing of high-quality face masks by both staff and students, access to free PCR tests, and funding from the government to support education recovery.

It wants robust health and safety risk assessments ahead of the new academic year, modifications to buildings to improve ventilation, measures to allow for effective social distancing, and improved mental health provision for students.

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

With high infection rates and Covid restrictions lifted across 英国 本星期, the union warned that universities are especially vulnerable to further outbreaks, with more than 1 million students travelling across the country to live and study away from home.

The UCU described the dropping of social distancing and mask wearing in England, and the reopening of nightclubs, as “reckless” and a “recipe for disaster”.

The letter to the education secretary said: “Last year, ministers green-lit the mass movement of students across the country and failed to recognise the effect this would have on infections, on those working and studying in the sector, and on the wider communities of which they become a part.

“As the Westminster government removes all restrictions and the associated public health guidance, there is a real danger that unless we learn key lessons from last year, our education settings become incubators for Covid-19 all over again.” Letters have also been sent to the Scottish government and the Northern Ireland executive.

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

The UCU general secretary, Jo Grady, 说: “Students and staff endured totally avoidable chaos in the last academic year, and rightly want to put that behind them, but at present there is a real danger that the disruption could return as cases surge and restrictions are eased across the UK.

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

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We strongly encourage all students to take up the offer of both vaccine doses as soon as they become eligible. We also recommend that face coverings are worn in enclosed and crowded 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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