Freshers week is usually a rite of passage for new university students. However for those arriving this year, the booze-fuelled nights and house parties are having to be put on hold due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
But after a new 10pm curfew on pubs, bars and restaurants came into force on September 24, there are now fears that young people may not heed warnings and breach Covid-19 rules by continuing to enjoy aspects of the traditional university lifestyle which it is feared may spread the disease.
On Thursday, dozens of young people were spotted queuing outside Sheffield’s Corporation, on Milton Street, at around 6pm – with no social distancing rules seemingly being adhered to.
Star readers have also raised concerns.
Resident Bob Goldsmith said students should be fined and ‘kicked out’ of university if they breach the measures in place to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
He said: “They're guests of our city and the unis [sic] should as such govern them. They're there to learn, not party.”
Michael Durkin said: “Was out in the Broomhill Tavern the other night. A few freshers were outside the pub but most of them causing problems inside, not wanting to move when asked to, causing more problems for us.”
Mabel Sampson added: “Students aren’t doing much about social distancing or abiding by the rule of six from what I have seen at nights round Crookes and Broomhill.”
Liam Connolly believes the new curfew on nightlife will have a major impact on student behaviour and thinks ‘unlicensed’ partiers will now become more common.
He said: “Of course it will, and more will drink at home, unregulated equals drink more equals NHS time bomb. Any numpty saying 'well they used to close at 10' needs to consider that. Time has moved on since the 70s/80s. Supermarkets will make a killing and unlicensed parties will become common.
"The police haven't managed to grasp mass gathings at Page Hall yet, so I doubt they will stop other large parties. It's not like the pubs have been rammed, anyway. Moronic rule. I've seen way better social distancing in pubs than on the highstreet and supermarkets.”
Unison, the largest trade union in the UK, said the government’s SAGE committee of medical and scientific advisors has warned that there will be ‘huge spikes’ in coronavirus in university cities such as Sheffield.
Its regional organiser Leonie Sharp said: “We have a major crisis now because although universities are hosting these national Covid testing centres, they are not open as a priority for students and staff.”
She added: “This is a national crisis, risking the health of thousands of people and a huge increase in infections in those areas where universities exist.”
Sheffield Hallam University said it is working with South Yorkshire Police and other partner organisations to ensure that any breaches of the government rules are dealt with “swiftly and proportionately.”
“As a University we are committed to ensuring all our communities are kept safe including students, staff and the wider public,” a spokesperson said.
“We have been clear with our students that we want them to enjoy their university experience but that we expect them to do so responsibly and safely.
“We are working closely with partner organisations including accommodation providers, the council and South Yorkshire Police, to ensure any behaviour that breaches government rules on socialising and safe behaviour is dealt with swiftly and proportionately.
“We are aware of fewer than 10 positive tests amongst our student community. None of these students have been onto the University campus. A similar number of students are self-isolating following official advice to do so. We are in regular contact with each of these students so that we can provide appropriate support for their wellbeing.
“We have implemented a wide range of support and safety measures at the University to create a safe and welcoming environment for our students. If any member of our student community suspects they have the virus or has had a positive test, they must follow official advice and should notify the University so that we can support them.
"Information is available on our Keeping Safe on Campus area of our website.”
The University of Sheffield said it was aware of one confirmed staff case of coronavirus and six confirmed student cases at present, with those affected and their households quarantining as per government guidelines
It added: “A significant part of our ongoing communication with both new and returning students is focused on the importance of staying safe and being considerate members of the local community.
"The University has also developed a new agreement with input from the Students’ Union called Your Community, Your Responsibility - Sheffield Behaviours (2020).
"This agreement outlines how, as a member of the University community, it is your social responsibility to help stop the spread of Covid-19 by ensuring good conduct and behaviours, adhering to relevant Covid-19 guidance.
"We will take action 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.“The University has robust processes and procedures in place for positive cases including tracking and tracing to reduce onward transmission, communications to relevant staff and students and deep cleaning of affected areas where appropriate.”