MORE than 40,000 university students have contracted Covid-19 this term, forcing thousands to self isolate in their halls.

But as the coronavirus lockdown continues, students will be allowed to return home for Christmas through an evacuation-style operation planned for early December after national restrictions end.

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When can students go home for Christmas?

The Government has set the “student travel window” to take place the week after lockdown ends in England, from Thursday December 3, 2020, until Wednesday December 9 2020.

To prepare for this mass exodus, in late November students will be offered rapid Covid tests, which can provide results in as little as 15 minutes.

It will allow those who test positive to self-isolate and still return home within the window.

Universities in areas where coronavirus is particularly prevalent will be prioritised for testing.

How will it work?

The Department for Education says universities will now start working with their local public health teams and local transport operators to organise a staggered mass departure.

Students are expected to be given allocated travel days, and some universities may organise coaches.

The Government hopes the travel window coming after lockdown will mean there is less risk of students transmitting the virus to friends and family back home.

English students who are at university in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland are being told to undertake “at least 14 days of restricted contact either before or after return home” to minimise their risk of transmission.

When will university students return in the New Year?

It is expected that online lectures will take place, although there is no general guidance at present.

A likely scenario is that rules around attendance and studywill differ between universities.

For example, Cambridge University announced in May that it would hold all lectures online for the entirety of the 2020-21 academic year – the first British institution to go fully remote.

Tutorials and smaller classes can take place in person, the university said, but only if they are Covid-19 secure and can follow social distancing rules.

Meanwhile, the University of Manchester made its lectures online for the Autumn term, at least.

A review of restrictions at the university is expected before the new term in 2021.

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