Nicola Sturgeon has said it is a “priority” to make sure students can return home for Christmas, as many face restrictions on moving from student halls.
The First Minister said the rules on household gatherings may change over the course of the pandemic and could be different by December 25.
Speaking during the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing, she also thanked the “vast majority” of students who followed rules over the weekend by avoiding pubs and meeting other households.
It follows a number of Covid-19 outbreaks at student halls of residence across Scotland. Hundreds were asked to self-isolate and students were advised to stay in halls if they were able to do so.
The First Minister said: “Don’t assume that the rules in place now for home visits will still apply at Christmas.
“We review the rules every three weeks and that’s why we cannot provide specific guidance for Christmas right now because that will of course depend on the course of the pandemic but I want to be very clear that it is absolutely our priority to make sure students can go home for Christmas as I know everybody will want to do.”
Saying the “vast majority” of students had followed the rules at the weekend, she said: “Sticking to guidelines like that isn’t easy especially in the early days of a university term but it will make a difference.
“The incubation period for this virus means I am absolutely sure that we will continue to see increased numbers of infections amongst students for several days to come and there will always be a need for vigilance.
“But the responsibility that has been shown over the past few days will help our efforts to stem this spread and I want to say thank you for that.”
New guidance on visiting home for students was published on Sunday evening, setting out what could be considered a “reasonable excuse” for short stays at family homes.
They can also change their permanent residence if they are unhappy with student halls.
Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme earlier on Monday, Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead said many students wanted to remain on campus.
He said: “It is challenging at the moment, especially if they are self-isolating, but they are enjoying the opportunity of making new connections, of at least meeting their tutors now and again.
“So I don’t expect, you know, a mass exodus from Scotland’s campuses, but the opportunity’s there for those who are struggling.”
He said that there had been reports some students had already returned home, adding that it was “really important” that those who were self-isolating at university must do so at home as well.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross also spoke on Good Morning Scotland, saying further clarity was needed for students.
Mr Ross said: “This is something that should not have come as a surprise, we saw in the United States of America when students went back to universities and colleges there was a spike in cases on campus.
“I really think this guidance should have been absolutely crystal clear before these young people left home and certainly before they got to university and were in many cases locked up in halls of horror.”
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