Updated: Sep 19, 2020
COMMENT: The way in which students have defied university warnings and carried on partying could have implications for plans to reopen campuses in October.
If students will not comply with public appeals from university bosses to observe coronavirus guidelines, how can the University of Bristol assure students, staff and the wider community that reopening will be safe?
I have written to the Mayor, Marvin Rees, and the Director of Public Health for Bristol, Christina Gray, urging them as leaders of the city’s coronavirus response to scrutinise the university’s plans and determine whether safety can be assured.
Dramatic chart, see links below
The key evidence for my concern is the extraordinary surge in noise complaints in July, which basically saw six months’ worth of noise crammed into one. Most complaints related to gatherings of students which in many cases clearly broke coronavirus guidelines and the law on meetings.
These gatherings happened despite two public warnings from the university that students must observe the coronavirus rules or face disciplinary action. On the face of it, UoB cannot count on many of its students to cooperate in reopening the campus safely.
The government’s scientific advisory body, Sage, recently commented on potential risks associated with plans to reopen university campuses across the country. It identified end-of-term migrations of students back to their family homes as potentially the most likely means of spreading coronavirus in the event there is a spike of infections among student communities.
However, that view has been challenged by Dr Richard Tyler, coordinator of the National HMO Lobby, who has written a response suggesting Sage overlooked the risks of transmission to residents in areas where large numbers of students live in rented accommodation.
I included Dr Tyler’s paper in my letter to the mayor and the director. My letter and his paper can be viewed as PDF files at the links below.
Who stole summer? Residents fume as noise complaints soar (contains complaints chart)
Campus reopenings called into question amid focus on coronavirus risks (contains links to Sage papers)
Students have 'moral duty' to obey Covid rules, uni VCs say as police act on noise reports (contains links to uni statements)