Tayside health officials have raised fears the return of students after Christmas could cause a repeat spike in cases.
At an NHS Tayside board meeting on Thursday, non-executive member Hugh Robertson said the area could “struggle to cope” when thousands return from family homes across the UK and the world in January.
Dundee, which has one of the largest numbers of students per population of any area in the UK, saw significant outbreaks at halls of residences just weeks after the new term began in September.
Mr Robertson said: “There is no doubt the return of students has been a factor, if not a major factor, in the spread of the virus in this area.
“Whilst it’s going to be a major concern when students return home for Christmas, my fear is that if students are likely to return after the Christmas break, that is going to exacerbate the problem and the spread of the virus.
“This would put an immense strain on our services and staff. We might reach a situation where we are really struggling to cope.”
Students were asked to return to the city ahead of the new term this autumn despite most teaching being done online.
More than 70 positive cases at Dundee’s Parker House forced 500 students there into self-isolation with contact tracers working hard to locate others in the surrounding weeks.
24 positive cases at Meadowside Halls also saw a significant number told to quarantine.
Interim director of Public Health in Tayside, Dr Emma Fletcher, said a decision on students returning will be made at a national level in the coming weeks.
She said: “There are challenges whenever people move across the country.
“We’ve seen it again about recommendations on travel to Blackpool in recent times.
“I have a huge amount of sympathy for students who find themselves in vastly different circumstances this year.
“In terms of the impact of the infection in the acute time phase, there is less impact on young people.
“But we don’t know the long-term effects, particularly for people who experience long-Covid and there is that impact into the wider population.
“It’s about supporting and understanding all of us within our community and reducing the spread.”