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Students warned over safe return to Midland universities

By Tom Dare | Birmingham | Coronavirus | Published:

Council leaders have issued a stark warning to students due to return to the region in the coming weeks after new lockdown measures came into force.

Dr Justin Varney, director of public health, and Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward

Thousands of students are due to return to universities across the West Midlands this week, as the region struggles with widespread spikes in positive Covid cases.

Sandwell, Birmingham and Solihull have seen a new ban on households mixing from today, while Dudley, Walsall and Wolverhampton are all in danger of having fresh restrictions imposed.

Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward said that there were no plans to postpone the start of the academic year for university students.

But he urged students to follow social distancing rules and “remain vigilant” when out in pubs and bars in order to limit the spread of the virus.

According to the latest NHS figures, in the seven days to September 11 Birmingham had 810 cases of the coronavirus, at a rate of 71 per 100,000 people.

Meanwhile health bosses in Sandwell said there had been 100 new cases in the borough since Friday, with the infection rate “rising rapidly” to three or four times what it was a few weeks ago.

Speaking during a West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) media briefing, Councillor Ward stressed the importance of allowing young people to resume their education, both at schools and at universities/colleges.

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A one-way system at University of Wolverhampton

“There are no plans at the moment to delay the start of the academic year,” he said.

“As with schools, it’s really important that young people can return to their education – they should not have their whole lives defined by this current pandemic.

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"What I would say to students returning to the city is please do follow all of the rules, particularly the rules around social distancing.

“And that is especially when you are going out and enjoying itself, perhaps going out to some of the bars and pubs across Birmingham, please make sure that if you have a drink you continue to follow the social distancing guidance, you continue to keep yourself safe, you wash your hands regularly and you follow all of the rules and guidance at the establishments that you are visiting.”

The University of Wolverhampton's Walsall campus is one site that will be welcoming students in the coming weeks.

Walsall Council leader Mike Bird, said: “Students have to understand that they must follow the guidance on social distancing so that everyone can stay safe."

Tom Dare

By Tom Dare

Local Democracy Reporting Service

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