Wales education minister refuses to rule out locking down entire student halls – Wales Online

Last Updated on September 30, 2020 by

The Welsh Government’s education minister Kirsty Williams has said she will not rule out locking down entire halls of residences.

Around 1,500 students in Manchester have been forced to self-isolate in their halls after 127 of them tested positive for the virus.

The Manchester Evening News reported that students in accommodation blocks at the Birley campus and Cambridge Halls at Manchester Metropolitan University, have been holding parties in their rooms after being told stay inside for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms.

Manchester Met University has offered a ‘care package’ including a two-week rebate on rent, a £50 voucher for Asda, free use of laundry facilities plus washing powder and ‘essentials’ such as hand sanitiser, toilet roll and soap.

With several of Wales’ larger cities having a significant student populations, WalesOnline asked Liberal Democrat education minister Kristy Williams if she would consider similar measures if a similar-size outbreak happened here.

She said: “One thing that I have learnt during this pandemic is that to rule out anything is very unwise. To rule out something today when public health advice may in the future say there are a large number of contacts would be foolish.”

She said that the first steps would be to follow the normal test trace and protect procedures and for only the direct contacts of students diagnosed with the virus to be asked to self isolate.

She added that “the success of this will be managing the number of cases within a halls of residence” and “there is a role to play for students by following the rules and universities by limiting the amount of contacts students have.”

Signs on a window at Manchester Metropolitan University's Birley campus

Signs on a window at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Birley campus
(Image: PA)

An image on a locked down hall of residence

An image on a locked down hall of residence
(Image: AP)

According to Ms Williams, students will be subject to the same Test, Trace, Protect reigime as everyone else.

She said: “We are working with our universities to make them as Covid secure as possible and that is by ensuring that groups of students don’t meet if at all possible in large numbers.

“Each case will be subject to the usual TTP regime and only the close contacts will be asked to self isolate at that time.

“It is really important that we manage those individual cases within university halls of residence.”

She also pointed to the “quite diverse” types of halls, saying that shared areas should be limited and that it was “important to remember” that “second and third year students need to follow the rules as well.”

Follow live updates from her press conference on our dedicated coronavirus blog.

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