What Sheffield universities are doing to manage Covid-19 risk amongst thousands of returning students

Residents have been reassured by university representatives that the thousands of students soon to arrive in Sheffield, will be ‘communicated extensively’ to about the seriousness of the ongoing pandemic.

Friday, 4th September 2020, 12:34 pm

With Sheffield being the home of two universities, many students are set to descend on the city to start the new term in a few weeks.

Although a returning student population is considered important for the local economy, it has raised a talking point among community associations across the country, who are concerned about the potential risk.

Peter Sephton, chair of ChangingSheff - a residents association for Sheffield city centre - said: “As city centre residents, we're keen to maintain the protocols of Covid containment to prevent the need for a damaging local lockdown.

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“We just want to ensure they arrive in an orderly manner and don't create health problems through being enticed to break the rules by raves organised by private individuals.”

Peter told how people were most concerned about the management of the university’s in house learning environment and the responsibility of students abiding by social distancing and wearing masks, especially during Freshers’ Week, with adverts encouraging student gatherings still being promoted online.

Peter said: “It’s an indication that students are being attracted into events that are likely to spread the virus within the community and the Universities.”

The University of Sheffield have confirmed that they are aware of such events being advertised and reiterate that they have ‘no affiliation to the university or Union’, however, it is something they will keep a ‘close eye’ on.

Sheffield Hallam University.

It wants to reassure residents that there is ongoing planning and extensive communication happening.

James Merryclough, sustainability and communications manager, University of Sheffield, said: “ We have reinforced the official Government advice throughout and strongly emphasised the importance of social distancing and continue to do so on our social media channels.”

Leaflets will be delivered to all student houses, outlining the expectations and the responsibilities students have, in terms of noise and the seriousness and dangers of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

“It will outline the potential repercussions, which now includes much higher fines,” James added.

There are usually a range of events taking place around Sheffield during Freshers' Week but things will be a little different this year.

The university understands that students may socialise within their private accommodation, and while the university’s security teams will intervene and respond to callouts from residents, they cannot patrol all areas.

James said: “While the university does not have the resources to proactively police lockdown measures amongst all of the students living in private accommodation, we will continue to take steps if we receive specific reports of anti-social behaviour, including reports of social distancing not being adhered to.

“These will be followed up by disciplinary action for the most serious incidents.”

There is also a security services helpline (0114 222 4085) for anyone who may encounter any incidents of anti-social behaviour.

In the eventuality of a rise in Covid-19 infections, the university is working on a contingency plan and working in cooperation with Sheffield City Council, the NHS, local public health teams and Sheffield Hallam University.