Students in St Andrews have been told not to leave town for Spring Break as authorities strive to curb a sharp and significant rise in Covid cases.
Six university halls of residence have now been hit by the latest outbreak, while instances have also been detected within private accommodation in recent days amid suggestions case numbers among students will continue to rise.
Sixteen students have tested positive since March 11, while 93 individuals are self-isolating as a contact of a confirmed positive case.
A further three people are self-isolating on a precautionary basis while a suspected Covid-19 case awaits test results.
Meanwhile, the annual Raisin Weekend celebrations – due to finish on Monday – were also postponed at short notice in light of the soaring case numbers.
The sudden surge comes after many weeks of low levels of infection associated with the university, and sources have revealed there is anecdotal evidence Covid has been introduced into the community by someone who is not a student at St Andrews.
It is understood mobile testing units were specifically set up for staff and students on Thursday and Friday, but stringent guidance has been issued asking students not to travel over Spring Break.
Anyone with a reasonable excuse as defined by law to leave St Andrews has been told to take a Covid test before leaving, and anyone leaving town has similarly been told to stay away for the remainder of the semester.
A spokesman for the university said: “Our whole community – students, staff and townspeople – have worked really hard to keep Covid numbers as low as possible in St Andrews.
“That has undoubtedly saved lives.
“It’s your responsibility to make sure you do not re-import the virus back into St Andrews, just as it is your responsibility to take all reasonable precautions to avoid spreading the virus if you are in St Andrews.”
Covid cases have been identified in students living in Agnes Blackadder Hall, Powell Hall, University Hall, Gannochy House, McIntosh Hall and Whitehorn Hall, and a small number of private flats in St Andrews.
The university added: “If you are a resident in one of these halls, or think you may have been in contact with someone who has Covid, it is very important that you come forward to take a test now.
“This includes anyone who has been told to self-isolate because they are a contact of a confirmed positive case.
“You can leave isolation for the purposes of taking a test, as long as you return to isolation immediately afterwards.”
The Raisin Weekend tradition, where older students adopt first year students as ‘children’ and they are encouraged to play games, dress up and join in an iconic foam fight, was due to take place from Saturday to Monday, with online celebrations expected to raise cash for charities while also helping academic families share memorable experiences.
However, the severity of the current situation prompted a joint decision by the St Andrews Students’ Association and the university to halt those plans.
In an email, University Proctor Clare Peddie and President of the Students’ Association Dan Marshall informed students of the postponement.
“Raisin belongs to you and your academic family but, as you know, it is also a statement of values to our wider community,” it read.
“It is important that we respect and respond to the mood of the town, and appreciate that there will be many among our community who are currently feeling vulnerable and concerned.
“That is why we believe that while we all work together to limit transmission and prevent additional cases in our community, we also need to demonstrate that we will not be distracted from our solidarity.
“We know that the great majority of you share that view and that we are well-practised in making sacrifices for the collective good.
“We’ll also work with the Students’ Association to ensure we mark Raisin at a suitable point in the future, and that everyone who wants to join in the traditional foam fight is invited to do so next year.
“In the meantime, please be aware that any reports of parties or conduct in breach of the Covid Code will be regarded as a serious public danger, and met by a very firm response.”