Writer Emma Duncan discusses how to navigate the lack of Covid restrictions this freshers' week
Last year, Murano Street Student Village lived up to its architectural profile: a prison. 600 freshers were self-isolating by the second week of the academic year and it had become apparent that the government asking students nicely to obey social distancing rules and not gather in groups hadn't been quite as effective as Ms Sturgeon might have hoped. This year, however, the national guidance appears to mirror that of a pre-Covid society. Safety is predicated on a vaccinated student population with 2021’s freshers' week set to commence on the second week of September, 9am sharp, with events spread across the entire month (freshers' flu be darned). With an end to most Covid-19 restrictions, are we set for another epidemic on a new and unimaginable scale?
Let's have a look at what we know: 60% of under-25s are vaccinated, with universities and colleges such as Stirling University (and perhaps soon, Glasgow) bringing in local vaccination centres to help ensure vaccination of the entire student population. This - as well as a hopefully lower incidence in the community thanks to the vaccine - may go some way to alleviate the potential for a fresh Covid epidemic and restrictions on students. Whilst the majority of staff and students alike have experience with previous outbreaks and restrictions at university, most incoming freshers, if straight from school, may have not yet received their vaccines.
And not only are there concerns regarding restrictions - or the lack of them - but after the implications of the summer “pingdemic”, the widespread use of track-and-trace schemes appears to have come to an end. In some, a sense of true freedom may have settled, as they step into the September sunshine, away from the stormy waves of coronavirus. The stark reality is, however, that this may just be the eye of the swirling cyclone of instability and infection: the real calm before the storm. Although hospital admissions are down, the number of positive Covid cases is beginning to rise again, leaving us not only wondering what will happen next, but when it will. This begs the question: will we see yet another period of student incarceration in halls? Will the start of this academic year become a carbon copy of the last?
Whilst we can't predict the future, and whilst we would hope that we are looking at the end of what has been a traumatic eighteen months - putting it lightly - my advice to freshers, and anyone else, starting university at this transitional time would be to enjoy yourselves, but remain cautious. We are not in the green yet, and flu season - both that of freshers' week, but also of Christmas time - is just around the corner. National restrictions are easing, but I would advise all students to remain vigilant at such a pivotal point in the year. But though remaining risk-aware may be a wise decision, we at The Glasgow Guardian's Science & Tech section don't believe it's productive to be purely doom and gloom.
So, if you are a fresher picking up this paper for the first time, I wish you a warm welcome, and use this chance to offer out some positivity in the midst of the madness that attending university in a pandemic is. Maybe you're one of the lucky ones and aren’t confined to your bedroom; go out and explore the beautiful city you’ll soon come to call home. Being a Science & Tech writer I’m compelled to recommend the Science Museum on the south side of the city, and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (which is just a stone’s throw away from campus!). However, be aware of crowds: CDC and SAGE advice is that although the virus spreads minimally from surfaces and outside, big groups of people are the real hotspots. Obviously, I wouldn't recommend missing a GUU Hive night - where morning-after regrets may not all be Covid-related - but ensure you've safeguarded yourself enough, and get vaccinated!
Even if you are indeed self-isolating from a Covid outbreak, and you've finally picked out the paper from the inside of your Freshers Welcome bags, welcome to the University of Glasgow! We're sure you'll have the time of your life, regardless of what is thrown your way.
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