STUDENTS must stagger their return to university over five weeks after Christmas to stop coronavirus spreading.
English universities must also Covid test students returning from the festive break, the government announced today.
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Universities will be given Covid testing facilities to give students two lateral flow tests, three days apart, with results within an hour.
Around 1.2million students in England are due to return home for Christmas from tomorrow.
The new rules mean some won't be back at university until February 7, and may face having to isolate immediately after returning if they test positive.
But it's hoped spreading out their arrival dates will stop a surge of people arriving back at once.
The government's new university guidance comes as Britain became the first country in the world to approve a Covid vaccine.
Next term, medical students, those on placements, or practical courses “with a need for in-person teaching” should return to their universities between January 4 and January 18.
Remaining courses should be offered online from the beginning of term.
From January 25, all other students should start to return gradually over a two-week period, the Department of Education announced.
All students should return by February 7.
A travel window opens tomorrow for students returning home, running from December 3-9.
Students going home for Christmas have been encouraged to get two tests three days apart and to travel within 24 hours of a second negative result.
Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said: "I know students have had to make sacrifices this year and have faced a number of challenges.
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"But this staggered return will help to protect students, staff and communities."
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "I encourage all students to play their part in bringing this virus under control by getting tested twice, and by following the restrictions in place when travelling to and from university this term."
A £20 million fund will also helo students “most in need of support", the government said.