• Mary-Edens McAbee

Students’ Guide to Navigating a Legal Return to the “Bubble”

Returning to St Andrews looks different for every student. For some, it is a short drive from their homes, and for others, the journey spans over twenty hours of travel. No matter where students are traveling from, they must be aware not only of university regulations but also requirements set in place by the Scottish Government and Public Health Scotland. It is important for students to remember that these regulations are not suggestions and the collegiate response will determine whether further restrictions will be required or present restrictions could be alleviated in the coming months.


The University of St Andrews has been systematic in its correspondence with the community on changes planned for the year ahead. In order for the university’s plan for “blended learning” to come to fruition, students must first follow the appropriate guidelines in place regarding travel back to St Andrews. As St Andrews is a prominently international university, many students must consider additional factors before term time changes, such as online teaching and social restrictions, can be faced — most importantly, the isolation requirements for students traveling from certain areas of the world.

Arrival

For students arriving from within the United Kingdom via car or train, general public health measures are in effect, such as the use of masks and sanitisers as well as health monitoring. If a student has been in the UK for over 14 days and shows no symptoms, they will not be required to self-isolate.

For those students arriving internationally, there is a new system to register arrival. Among the usual immigration policies, there are passenger locator forms to ensure contact details are correct and proper self-isolation regulations are followed, if applicable. This form should be completed before arrival as choosing not to do will lead to a fine and possible denial of entry.

Several countries have been flagged by the Scottish government as "high risk" with students arriving from any of these required to self-isolate for 14 days upon their arrival to Scotland. Students must travel immediately to their listed accommodation and follow the appropriate self-isolation guidelines. As the Scottish government encourages students to use public transport sparingly, the university is offering a scheme to help students safely travel from the airport to their accommodation at no extra cost.

Self-isolation is key to reducing the spread of COVID-19 through travel. Students should continue to monitor their health throughout the 14-day period and consult the National Health Service if symptoms should appear. In self-isolation, students should not have visitors or visit public areas. Flatmates of students who are self-isolating are allowed to come and go, but the Scottish government encourages minimal contact. Students in self-isolation should spend as little time as possible in living areas such as shared bathrooms and kitchens and remember to clean anything another person in the house may use. If a student shows no symptoms after 14 days, they may stop self-isolating.


Public Health Scotland can perform a routine check on any student who has filed the passenger locator form to ensure compliance and safety of the individual. Students should be aware that the penalty fine for violating any aspect of self-isolation is fixed at £480.

For those students coming from exempt countries or the Common Travel Area as well as students who have finished self-isolation, it is still important to follow safety guidelines put in place by the Scottish government which includes measures such as physical distancing, personal hygiene, and routine monitoring for symptoms.

The “New Normal”

St Andrews is not just a university; it is a town filled with local St Andreans who create and support the community that students know and love. University students have the responsibility to respect those who call St Andrews their permanent home by practicing proper public health measures.

The Scottish government has passed Health and Safety legislation that applies to all institutions including universities. It is important to follow university guidelines as they are updated and re-assessed for the health of all members of the community. The new trifecta of health measures include physical distancing, wearing face coverings, and maintaining personal hygiene. These measures pertain to all aspects of life in St Andrews whether that is maintaining distance in a lecture hall or wearing a mask at the grocery store.

Some of the many changes within the university include a much smaller scope of social activities that usually take place during semester one. Many events have been canceled, postponed, or moved online, and restaurants and bars will not be at full capacity. While socialisation is a key part of student life in St Andrews, students must follow the legal regulations on social gatherings for a chance at a more socialised semester two.


For social gatherings above the allowed limit (currently attendees from more than five households), police have the authority to disperse partygoers. Those who do not comply with the police could face a fine of £60 and risk the possibility of arrest should the situation escalate.


Another change for students is the availability of travel as the government discourages non-essential travel. Whether it is a weekend away or a trip home for Reading Week, students should consider that re-entry into Scotland will be subject to the same self-isolation requirements no matter how short the trip.

Resources

One of the most important elements that returning students should consider is the resources provided by both the university and the Scottish Government. This includes resources for potential cases of COVID-19 as well as students’ wellbeing during this time.


Should a student begin to feel ill or suspect that they have come in contact with someone who has been ill, the Scottish government proposes a Test and Protect method to minimise the spread of COVID-19. This programme emphasises the importance of testing as well as creating a contact tracing system to alert anyone with whom the individual may have been in contact. Students showing mild symptoms should visit the Test and Protect website where they can fill out a questionnaire to assess if a home test is needed. The website provides additional guidance for understanding results and how to appropriately isolate after a positive result. If symptoms are severe, call 111 or a local GP for immediate help. All students are given contact information for their GP during matriculation, but those numbers can also be found here.


Additionally, the NHS has created an app which allows users to stay updated on NHS guidelines as well as monitor any symptoms. The NHS 24 COVID-19 app provides students with an easier way to stay informed with alerts on updated guidelines, steps to minimise risk, and advice for symptomatic users.


The university and the Scottish community at large have a plethora of resources for students who may be struggling with the “new normal” in St Andrews. This is a period of great change, and students should know that their wellbeing is not forgotten. The NHS has compiled a list of organizations where individuals can find support, and the university has a similar website to help students find ways to sustain their mental and physical health. As always, the university’s crisis page provides essential points of contact for students who may be suffering during this time.


The University has also announced its new COVID-19 code which includes eight steps that students should follow to minimise the spread without our community. These include safeguards for personal and public health as students and members of the larger St Andrews community. Failure to adhere to the code could result in an investigation into non-academic misconduct.

Looking Forward


Looking forward to Phase 4 of the Scottish government’s re-entry strategy, some restrictions may be lifted. The most important action students can take at present is to make themselves aware of the current guidelines.

In order for the university to continue into the spring semester with any semblance of in-person teaching, rules and guidelines must be followed now. For those who still do not understand the importance of following guidelines and respecting the university's, as well as the government’s, regulations, consider second semester. If students want even the possibility of a beach holiday or their favorite events, they should wear a mask, stay distanced, and respect the rules. By simply following the appropriate travel requirements put in place by the Scottish government and adhering to the stated public health measures, the university and St Andrews community at large will see greater progress in the coming months.