Students at St Andrews University have been warned voluntary lockdowns may have to be repeated if the spread of Covid-19 is not halted.
As the number of positive cases associated with the Fife university reached 12, Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Sally Mapstone urged the student body for the second weekend in a row to not visit pubs, bars and restaurants in a bid to break the chains of transmission.
Since the university restarted earlier this month, 10 students and two members of staff have tested positive for coronavirus and of the five new cases recorded this week, two are sporadic and three are linked to community transmission.
Prof Mapstone thanked all those who responded “selflessly and constructively” to the university’s call for a voluntary lockdown last week but admitted the same is required this weekend.
In a letter to students, she said: “It is our hope that this is for this weekend only, but that is dependent on case numbers stabilising.
“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.
“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.
“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.”
ProfMapstone also asked students to download the Protect Scotland app, again on a voluntary basis, although she revealed she expects it to become a requirement for all Scottish universities “in the near future”.
Student president Dan Marshall hopes a little pain just now will result in a longer-term gain for frustrated students.
“It’s difficult in any time to stay at home, especially in a town like St Andrews where it is so nice to be out and about,” he said.
“No-one is saying that this is going to be an easy thing to do but I really hope that students will take the Principal’s message seriously, understand the reasons for what they are being asked to do and why they are being asked to do it, and will just have to grin and bear it and say, ‘this is not ideal, this is not what anybody wants, but in the long run it’s in our best interests and the best interests for vulnerable people in the community’.
“I’m not seeing that much resistance at the moment, other than a bit of grumbling, but it does seem that the vast majority of students are going to take this seriously because we all understand the difficult position we’re all in at the moment and how important it is to get the virus under control.
“No-one likes following these restrictions, no-one likes the fact that our daily lives are being restricted in this way, but the vast majority of students really do understand the responsibility that we all have to each other and the community in which we live.”