Students could be told to stay at their universities and not return home for Christmas to avoid them infecting their parents and grandparents, Matt Hancock has confirmed.
The health secretary said on Thursday morning he had “learned not to rule things out” when asked if such a measure could be introduced.
“One of the challenges we have is making sure people are as safe as possible, and that includes not spreading [coronavirus] between the generations,” he told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme.
“I don’t want to have a situation like that and I very much hope we can avoid it.”
It comes after 124 students at Glasgow University tested positive, with 600 people now self-isolating.
Greg Fell, Director of Public Health for Sheffield, told Times Radio this morning students should stay on campus.
“If students become poorly and then go back home then that seeds infection in other parts of the country which adds further pressure to R-0 nationally,” he said.
“Clearly there are going to be times when students do legitimately need to go home for all sorts of reasons. But the recommendation is to stay in place, basically.”
It comes as the number of new cases rose by more than 6,000, new restrictions came into force in England on Thursday, and the much-delayed coronavirus contact tracing app was finally launched.
NHS Test and Trace, which is responsible for the service, said the app was used to send alerts to users during a trial period on the Isle of Wight and in the London borough of Newham, after people had tested positive.
The latest version was piloted among residents of both areas as well as NHS volunteers from mid-August, after the first app was marred by technical issues and eventually scrapped.
As the software is voluntary, its success will also depend heavily on how many people choose to download and use it.