Principal praises student Covid response
I am writing to thank you for all you are doing individually and collectively to prevent the further spread of Covid-19 in our community.
So many of you have responded selflessly and constructively to our call last week for a voluntary lockdown.
I know that this has not been popular, and that none of you would have wished to have your experience of St Andrews curtailed in this way. As a student community, however, you have set a really positive example for others to follow.
You may be aware that there are now serious outbreaks of Covid at several universities elsewhere in Scotland, and the UK, many times the order of magnitude of the number of cases we have experienced so far in St Andrews.
The spread of Covid from student communities to the wider population is now the Scottish Government’s major public health concern, and they have made it very clear that additional, substantial preventative action is now required at all universities.
In St Andrews, a further five cases of Covid have been confirmed in the University community this week. This is in addition to the four cases about which I notified you on Monday. In total, since we returned in September, we have had 12 confirmed cases, involving 10 students and two members of staff. Of the five new cases notified this week, two are sporadic and three are linked to community transmission.
This weekend, with the strong encouragement of the Scottish Government, every university in Scotland will ask all students to observe a voluntary restriction on visiting pubs, bars and restaurants, as we asked you to do last week to break the chains of transmission in our community.
It is our hope that this is for this weekend only, but that is dependent on case numbers stabilising. We will update you as soon as we can next week.
This voluntary request is in addition to important new Government regulations introduced yesterday around socialising and visiting each other’s households, which apply to all people in Scotland.
These new regulations, and the voluntary nationwide request to all students not to visit pubs, bars or restaurants, will affect us in St Andrews in the following ways:
Household visits and socialising
Please do not meet people from any other households in your home or flat, or another person’s home or flat socially. This is no longer a request from the University for voluntary restrictions on household visits and parties; from Friday it will be the law of the land for all of us.
If you are currently living in one of our halls of residence, you will already be part of a designated household group. If you are unsure about this, please check with your hall warden or our residence staff.
We are seeking clarification from Government on what this means for the use of shared spaces and common areas in our halls of residence, and we will update all of you as soon as we have this.
Public outdoor spaces and private gardens
A maximum of six people from two households can meet in outdoor spaces. You should limit as far as possible the total number of households you meet in a day. I know that the beach is a popular place for students to meet and you should absolutely continue to do that if you wish, providing you respect the six people from two households condition, remain clearly physically distanced from other groups, and please make sure you clean up after you have been there.
Pubs, bars, restaurants and public indoor spaces
A maximum of six people from two households can meet in public indoor spaces. However, all universities in Scotland are asking students to agree not to visit pubs, bars or restaurants. It is a measure of the gravity of the current situation that this is being asked of you at this time.
An important exception to this request are students who work in hospitality establishments. Please do continue to go to work.
We do not believe there are any new restrictions on sporting activity, beyond those already in place. We will keep this under review, however, and advise you promptly if that changes. This weekend, our Saints Sport programme will continue as normal with the exception of contact sports. It was great to see our playing fields so busy this week and I hope that this will continue to be the case.
Libraries, Byre and Students’ Association
We will be keeping these facilities open for limited activities at weekends, although the bar in the Students’ Association will be closed for as long as these restrictions are in place. Rectors’ Café and the University Shop will be open during the day. The Byre will be screening films especially for students and live-streaming Shakespeare, as well as hosting a digital music festival, and the Main Library can be accessed for study space.
Protect Scotland App
If you have not already done so, please download the Protect Scotland App. This is a request at present, but we expect it to become a requirement for all students at all Scottish universities in the near future.
We all appreciate that these restrictions are at best inconvenient, and in most cases require you to make very significant sacrifices. It is my job to work as hard as possible for you to ensure they are for the short term, and to provide as much support and information as you require. Please contact our Student Services team if you’re feeling anxious or have a particular issue with which we can help.
I wish I did not have to ask you all again to observe a voluntary lockdown, but if we do not act now as a community and a country, Covid may ensure that any lockdown is no longer voluntary, and much more far-reaching than the measures I have detailed above.
Thank you again for your cooperation and patience. It should drive the determination of our entire community to get through this crisis as comprehensively and as rapidly as possible.
Principal and Vice-Chancellor
Email from University of St Andrews Principal Professor Sally Mapstone to all students and staff on Thursday 24 September.