Students relieved to head home but post-Christmas return could be delayed
- Credit: EDP Library
After weeks of campus Covid restrictions and limited face-to-face teaching, students have started to head home for Christmas.
About 1.2 million students are set to travel back to a home address, including 88,000 leaving this region, while many others head back to Norfolk from university elsewhere.
Louis Chambers, a first year studying geology at the University of Hull, will be among the students heading home this week.
"It will be a relief to get back home," he said. He has been able to see his family only once this term, because of Covid restrictions.
Before leaving for Christmas, students have been encouraged to have two tests three days apart - and to travel within 24 hours of receiving a second negative test result.
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The University of East Anglia (UEA) is running asymptomatic rapid testing until December 9 in a bid to get students home safely ahead of the festive break.
There were 16 confirmed Covid cases among UEA students in the seven days up to December 1, down from 22 the previous week, while only a single member of staff tested positive.
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The student exodus has been staggered to ensure public transport can cope. National Express has added two extra daily services London and Norwich services during the travel window.
Commercial director John Boughton said: “We are seeing a very big increase in the number of searches for travel in particular from Norwich into London and to the airports.”
Greater Anglia said it was not running additional trains at the moment but is operating more than 95pc of its regular timetable with students urged to avoid peak times.
Meanwhile return journeys after the Christmas break could prove a more drawn out operation with universities told to stagger students coming back over five weeks.
Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said: "I know students have had to make sacrifices this year and have faced a number of challenges, but this staggered return will help to protect students, staff and communities."
Medical students and those on placements or practical courses with a need for in-person teaching should return first between January 4 and January 18, according to Department for Education (DfE) guidance.
But the remaining students should be offered online lessons as they return gradually over a two-week period from January 25