In a letter, the Scottish university asks all students to observe a voluntary lockdown this weekend, effective from 7pm on Friday evening.

First published in September 2020.

In a letter sent to all students, St Andrews University’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sally Mapstone asks all students of the Scottish university to go into a voluntary lockdown this weekend.

“It is now very clear that rates of Covid infection are surging again in various parts of this country, and it is very likely that we are very close to a form of further national lockdown,” she writes.

“The First Minister of Scotland has today spoken of the urgent need to interrupt the chain of transmission of the virus. In these circumstances, I am writing to all of our students to ask you to please observe a voluntary lockdown this weekend, effective from 7pm this evening.

“This means that I am asking you all to remain in your rooms as much as possible, not to party, not to go to bars or restaurants, and to avoid mixing with any groups outside your own households. Catering will continue as normal in halls of residence.”

The University and College Union (UCU), which represents over 120,000 academics, lecturers and university workers, had warned the government that encouraging students to travel across the country carried a serious public health risk and that universities were just “weeks away” from “sleepwalking into a disaster”, and had put both the government and universities on notice, saying they had to have plans in place to deal with the COVID threat.

Pre-emptive action to save lives

St Andrews has thus decided to act early to prevent a serious situation.

“I appreciate that this request will appear to some of you to be premature, but a hallmark of this pandemic has been that, as a society, we have acted too slowly in the past, and thousands of people have died unnecessarily as a result,” the Vice-Chancellor tells the students.

“Early action saves lives, and we have an opportunity as one community to take action to protect ourselves, and those with whom we share this town. We acted swiftly in March when the pandemic first hit Fife, and the situation we face now is just as serious.

“I must stress that this is pre-emptive and proactive action. There is no evidence that the virus is surging in our community. Rather it is because as a country we are now in a very fast-moving phase where early intervention is key, and hours make a difference.”

The decision to ask students to observe a strict voluntary lockdown is obviously one Professor Mapstone recognises is asking “a great deal” of them, but also one she writes she believes they “will respond positively” because “the sooner we break the transmission of the virus nationally and locally, the sooner we can all return to a traditional university experience.”🔷

PMP News reporting.

[This piece was first published in PMP Magazine on 18 September 2020.]

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(Cover: Wikimedia/Oliverkeenan. - St Salvator's Quad, University of St Andrews. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)

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