Coronavirus: Manchester students warned off club nights

By Hannah Richardson and Judith Burns
BBC News

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The move by universities comes as new restrictions are imposed in Bolton

Students at universities across Greater Manchester are being warned they will face sanctions if they break rules to limit the spread of coronavirus.

It comes as the area prepares to welcome about 100,000 students for the start of term.

Campuses have been closed since March and there are concerns that an influx of students from across UK could lead to a spike in cases.

The warning comes from five universities across the region.

They have been urged to attend virtual freshers' events and avoid big parties.

Manchester, like a number of other cities across North West England, is in partial lockdown due to outbreaks of Covid-19.

This means students will be affected by rules restricting mixing between households.

Vice-chancellors and National Union of Students officers from the Universities of Bolton, Manchester, Salford, Manchester Metropolitan University and the Royal Northern College of Music issued to a joint call to their students.

Club nights

Many of the traditional "welcome" activities, which usually bring together large groups, will not take place this year, or will happen online.

The universities are also urging students not to buy entry wristbands to so-called "freshers' events" which are large scale club nights that are currently prohibited.

They are being urged only to take part in official activity promoted by their university or students' union.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock appealed to students to observe social distancing as the new university term gets underway.

"Please, stick with it and play your part in getting this virus under control," said Mr Hancock as he announced new restrictions on Bolton.

The leaders of the five universities said: "This is a special time in the university calendar, where we welcome new students to campus for the first time as well as welcoming many more back.

"This September, though, is like no other, not just for our students, but also for the communities in which they live and study.

"Across our universities, staff and students have worked tirelessly in the fight against Covid-19 - many on the front line in healthcare, volunteering, or at the sharp end of research to treat those suffering with the virus or to protect those at risk.

"This commitment to fighting Covid-19 continues as we bring students back on to campus and surrounding areas in our cities.

"As new and returning students join our community, we remind them of their responsibilities in minimising the transmission of the virus in our city region and in acting as ambassadors for our universities in the areas where they live and socialise."

The universities say they are working with the NHS and public health bodies as well as local authorities and the police to ensure students receive a clear message.

As well as setting clear expectations, measures will include initiatives such as community night-time support patrols in areas where many students live, such as areas of south Manchester.

Should it become necessary, the partnership - made of universities, student unions, residences, councils and police - says it will use sanctions against students who do not adhere to rules on safe behaviour.

Manchester City Council has praised "first class preparations" by the universities, student unions and the wider city community to ensure students can return safely.

"We want them to feel safe and we also want them to feel part of the community, which means being good neighbours," said Council Leader Sir Richard Leese.