Universities Minister urges Luton students to stick to social distancing rules at start of new academic year

The Universities Minister has reached out to Luton students as the new term gets underway - with a message to remain vigilant as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
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The University of Bedfordshire has introduced a rigorous new regime to protect students from Covid-19, including temperature taking at entrances to its campus, strict social distancing and face mask rules, as well as a team of volunteer student "Covid safety" officers.

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said: “This is a challenging time for us all, and I recognise that some residents in university towns and cities such as Luton, and its surrounding areas, may feel nervous ahead of the start of the academic term.

“But I want to reassure the people of Luton that every effort is being made by the Government and universities to ensure that students return to campus as safely and sensibly as possible.

The University of Bedfordshire; (inset) Universities Minister Michelle DonelanThe University of Bedfordshire; (inset) Universities Minister Michelle Donelan
The University of Bedfordshire; (inset) Universities Minister Michelle Donelan

“We have already seen a mammoth effort from universities with a host of protective measures being put in place, such as limiting travel into campus, staggering class times over extended days, and reinforcing hand hygiene, to keep students and local residents as safe as we can during this time.

“But I have been clear that health advice only works if we all follow it and I am urging students, just like the wider public, to do their bit and act responsibly.

"I have faith in students that they will follow the guidance and by doing so protect their family, friends and local communities, and ensure campuses can remain open.”

Testing forms a crucial part of the University of Bedfordshire's safety measures and plans are underway for new community testing centres to be situated on campus.

Ruki Heritage, director of student experience at the university, said: “As everywhere in the new Covid-19 world, we have made sure our students will be safe upon their arrival and throughout their university experience.

"All students are expecting to see new social distancing measures across every part of the University, including single entry/exit systems and restrictions on numbers in certain areas and facilities. Prior to their arrival, students have received informative reading material about these new measures, rules and policies to ensure they are fully aware and able to navigate around each campus.

“We’ve also reduced our residential capacity in student halls to help prevent the risk and possible spread of infection, and students are requested to groups of less than six when socialising.

"The Rule of Six applies when using our facilities such as the libraries, cafes and chill-out zones, which we ask our students to use when possible, to help keep footfall off campus to a minimum.

“As well as helping to keep themselves and others safe, we also hope that living and socialising in these smaller groups will give them a chance to make meaningful and long-lasting friendships.”