Coronavirus: Fears as Imperial College London reopens some communal areas

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Imperial College buildingImage source, PA Media
Image caption,
A teaching building at Imperial College London

Staff at a university's halls of residence have questioned a decision to reopen some of its communal areas amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Advice from Imperial College London has been a crucial influence on the UK government's social distancing policy.

But some workers fear they will become ill after areas in two residential blocks were reopened.

Imperial College said students were being reminded of the importance of social distancing.

The university's halls of residence in Battersea, south London, and Wood Lane, west London are capable of housing more than 1,100 students in total when full.

Communal areas in both buildings were closed last month after the UK government introduced a nationwide lockdown and strict social distancing rules.

The measures were hugely influenced by modelling done by public health experts at Imperial.

However, last week officials at the college ordered their buildings management company to reopen both areas so students could use the communal spaces.

Staff at both halls have told the BBC they are unhappy at the decision, fearing it could make them more likely to catch coronavirus.

Some also complained that it has been almost impossible at times to insist that students maintain a distance of at least 2m (6ft 6in) apart.

In a statement, Imperial College said the communal areas had been re-opened "on the condition that residents adhere at all times to government advice including social distancing rules".

"These rules are clearly displayed at the entrance to all communal areas and students have been reminded of the importance of following them," it said.

The college added the situation was under "constant review" and shared areas would be closed if social distancing could not be adhered to.

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