A STUDENT from Shetland attending college on the Scottish mainland has welcomed new guidance which allows students to return home for Christmas.
Sophie Manson, who is studying HNC Animal Care at the SRUC Oatridge Campus in West Lothian, said she is “over the moon” at the clarity following an announcement from the Scottish Government on Wednesday.
A Covid-19 testing scheme for asymptomatic students will be in place prior to the end of term, while there will be staggered and early departures from campuses.
Any student who wants to return home for the end of term is also being asked to voluntarily reduce their social mixing for two weeks before going home.
Twenty year old Manson, from Brae, welcomed the guidance from the government.
“The fact that continuously testing thousands of students after the big outbreaks amongst universities and colleges down south has proven to be effective in bringing the Covid case numbers down is so good to hear,” she said.
“Following the announcement from yesterday, it gives us students hope that we can be with our families for Christmas so long as we get tested throughout December and stick to isolating for at least two weeks before Christmas to allow us to travel home and be where we belong for the festivities.”
Manson said it has “already been a challenging year for students, especially for those who have had to travel over longer distances away from their families to be able to continue in their studies”.
“I’m sure I can speak on behalf of all students, particularly island students, and say that we are over the moon to receive some good news and will be doing anything in our power to work with the government so we can all get home for Christmas,” she added.
Manson added that the SRUC – Scotland’s Rural College – has been “really good” with students around going home for Christmas.
“Our course is practical-worked based you see so they’re making sure anyone wanting to go home for Christmas aren’t having to do any practicals/duties for the last two weeks leading up to Christmas which I think is very considerate,” she said.
The need to test students, meanwhile, was welcomed by Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats have been calling for government to get four nations plans in place to help students travel home safely for Christmas,” she said.
“We must avoid the shambles when students arrived on campus in September and government wasn’t prepared.
“It’s therefore welcome that testing is to be made available for asymptomatic students and there will be staggered departure dates.
“It will be vital that the testing programme takes account of the needs of island students. We must urgently see detail about how testing will work in practice and on the support that will be in place for students who can’t or decide not to go home.
“Travel to the isles is expensive so students will need to know when they can leave their institutions and when they can return. Similarly they need clarity on when they will be able to get their tests.
“For many isles students Christmas will be the first time they are able to see their family in months so we need to do all we can to help them to do that safely.”
Further and higher education minister Richard Lochhead said that “testing will play a role – but only a limited role”.
“My message to students is, ‘thank you for all your efforts, and please keep doing all you can to keep yourself and others safe’,” he added.
“I have no doubt the majority of students will want to act responsibly, and will follow the measures that will be set out.”
More information for students can be found here.
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