The governmental Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) body called for all university teaching to be fully online 4 weeks ago.
Minutes of the 21st September meeting of SAGE, released on Monday suggest “All university and college teaching to be online unless face to face teaching is absolutely essential”
Although this body only reports to the government and can make no policy and has no power beyond making suggestions, it is clear that the government was warned that student areas would be hotspots of COVID-19 as the large influx of students in close proximity lead to numerous transmission events.
The Times investigation into this has shown that SAGE’s fears have been shown to be well founded with areas of Manchester and Nottingham, both which included large student populations, having 1 in 20 people infected. The national average at the time was 1 in 240 infected.
When queried about this, an Imperial College London spokesperson said: “Imperial’s STEM focus requires in-person access to labs and specialist equipment. While we are moving much of our teaching and learning online, we have also developed COVID-safe forms of in-person teaching, which remain essential to an Imperial education.
“On-campus teaching - such as laboratory work - will be delivered in a COVID-secure way for as long as government guidance allows and virus transmission among our community remains within local public health thresholds.”
While the government did issue additional guidelines on the reopening of university buildings, the government has made a comittment to keeping educational facilities open, even in the case of a Tier 3 London-local lockdown.
The recent government update that places London into a Tier 2 local lockdown in response to elevated infection levels due to begin at midnight of 16th October will not affect teaching.