With raucous pub crawls and UV paint parties off limits due to the pandemic, first-year students at universities across the country can expect freshers’ week with a twist this autumn. An online, booze-free and sexless twist.
But, perhaps showing a scintilla of wishful thinking, some students’ unions claim the new fresher’s week is much better suited to a generation Z who are less interested in drinking and smoking.
Events organised by Covid-conscious unions to welcome undergraduates include virtual DJ sets, cooking and yoga classes, bingo and movie nights, as well as online escape rooms.
While some in-person events will still go ahead, the experience is likely to prove a toned-down affair, with food markets and open-air cinemas being posed as alternatives to boozy club nights.
Francesco Masala, president at the University of Bath’s students’ union, said organisers were trying to use social distancing measures as a chance to veer away from traditional freshers’ week events to less alcohol-focused ones, in line with what young people wanted.
“They tend to drink less, smoke less and like doing different activities,” he said, adding that this year offered a chance to “move towards a fundamentally new model with more day activities not concentrated on drinking”.
Nicola Sturgeon has dismissed concerns about the academic appointed to lead an independent review of the exam grading debacle, following reports that Mark Priestley, a professor at Stirling University, had previously publicly declared support for the SNP as well as a candidate ditched by the party following allegations of antisemitism.
The Scottish Conservatives have already called for Priestley to be removed.
Asked about the appointment at her daily briefing, the SNP leader and first minister said:
I can’t interrogate how people vote and nor should I.
On the basis of current opinion polls, more than half of the Scottish population intend to vote SNP, so there would obviously be an issue if we started to exclude [them].
I don’t think [voting intention] should be relevant in terms of someone’s ability to do a particular job that requires a particular specialism.
Meanwhile, pub crawls and venue music are off in Scotland, as the Scottish government issues new statutory guidance relating to hospitality, while the public have been warned again to avoid house parties and sleepovers – particularly with older children – that exceed limits for indoor gatherings.
Today it became mandatory for hospitality businesses, including cafes, restaurants, pubs and bars, to collect contact details from customers, and Sturgeon announced the new guidance at her daily briefing – this doesn’t actually place additional burdens on businesses but does put things on a statutory footing as Scottish government contemplates a succession of new clusters over the past week.
Sturgeon reiterated the guidance – which includes no indoor queueing; no standing together in a bar or restaurant; people should be seated only, with table service and maintaining 1 metre distancing, no background music or television, so people don’t have to lean in to each other to hear – and encouraged people to minimise the number of premises they visit in one day.
She also reminded businesses and customers of the current law on gathering sizes. Friends should not be meeting indoors in groups of more than eight people from no more than three households, she said, referencing house parties and sleepovers particularly.
Amanda Hill lives with her husband in France, and her brother-in-law Simon is currently visiting them on holiday with his wife and their six-year-old twins.
Amanda got in touch earlier to describe her brother-in-law Chris’s tricky situation after some confusion over the timing of its introduction, and we’ve spoken to her to get more details.
On Thursday night, Simon saw a MailOnline report that the quarantine would kick in on Sunday – which appeared to have been based on official briefings and came alongside an interview the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, gave to Sky News also giving Sunday as the day the rules would change (as well as a tweet, since deleted, to the same effect).
You can watch the interview here:
Hill told the Guardian:
They were due to drive back on Monday, so they bought another Eurotunnel ticket for Saturday to get ahead of the quarantine.
And then this morning my husband had to tell him – no, it’s actually Saturday morning at 4am that it comes in.
He was absolutely staggered. None of us could believe it. We’re just apoplectic. Grant Shapps has cost him £230.
Simon and his family thought about trying to get to Calais on Friday, but concluded that the six-hour drive to the coast with young children would be foolhardy when Eurotunnel was already warning that everything was booked.
“So he’s going to try to get the money back for the ticket he booked late last night, at least,” Hill said. “He’s having to give the reason why he booked it as ... Grant Shapps.”
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Fires caused by portable barbecues, wild flowers being dug up, the disturbance of shorebirds, and an avalanche of rubbish. These are just some of the threats to Britain’s wild places as record numbers enjoy coastal and countryside “staycations”.
Beleaguered rangers complain that a new generation of holidaymakers are treating the countryside like a festival site, leaving behind tents, chairs and excrement, as well as endangering rare habitats and wildlife.
“It’s like no previous law of behaviour applies,” said one warden in Devon, whose coastal nature reserve has been the busiest he has seen it in 40 years. “Anything you would expect people to understand, such as littering or people using the countryside as a lavatory, they ignore.”
Conservationists and landowners are particularly concerned by the escalating fire risk with tinderbox conditions at many beauty spots, and a surge in wild campers – or “fly-campers” – lighting fires and portable barbecues.
A fire destroyed 140 acres of heathland on Chobham Common, Surrey, last weekend. During the last bank holiday weekend, more than 20 serious moorland and grassland fires devastated areas in the Peak District, Yorkshire Dales and New Forest.
In Dartmoor, one of the few places in England where wild camping is legal, the Dartmoor National Park Authority has deployed emergency powers to temporarily ban wild camping after a dramatic increase in “fly-camping” at Bellever, where more than 50 fire pits were dug into the moor on one night. The authorities hope the August-long ban will give the beauty spot time to recover.
A fishing boat from Peterhead on the north-east coast of mainland Scotland has been identified as the cause of an outbreak of Covid-19 in Orkney, as the local health chief said he was profoundly concerned that the virus was spreading rapidly across the island community.
The head of NHS Orkney, Michael Dickson, said: “We have five positive cases from a fishing vessel and more than nine contacts. Our understanding is they travelled from mainland Scotland, from Peterhead, before arriving in Orkney.”
Contact tracers are working to isolate those who may be affected following an incident management team meeting on Thursday afternoon.
Dickson assured the local population that health authorities were taking the outbreak “extremely seriously. “We believe there is a real risk to the people of Orkney, including those on the remote isles, and urge them to take care,” he said.
France could quarantine British travellers in retaliation over new rules
British visitors to France could face a two-week quarantine, as the French government threatened retaliation after being removed from the UK safe travel list following a spike in coronavirus cases.
But the Netherlands, which was also removed from the travel corridor list late on Thursday, has ruled out reciprocal measures.
From Saturday 4am BST, arrivals from France and the Netherlands to the UK must go into quarantine for two weeks, or risk a fine, the UK government has announced.
France’s European affairs minister, Clément Beaune, tweeted that the government regretted the British decision that “will lead to a reciprocal measure”, while adding “hoping for a return to normal as soon as possible”.
Transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari echoed these words, tweeting: “I told my counterpart Grant Shapps of our willingness to harmonise health protocols to assure a high level of protection on both sides of the channel.”
But the Dutch government ruled out tit-for-tat measures, although it has added the UK to an orange list, which advises travellers from the Netherlands against non-essential visits, because of the 14-day quarantine they face in the UK.
“We will not take reciprocal measures,” a foreign ministry spokesperson said. “Our travel advisory specifically states that travellers from the UK to the Netherlands do not need to go into quarantine upon arrival in the Netherlands.”
The government is expected to confirm shortly that Greater Manchester, parts of east Lancashire and West Yorkshire will remain subject to tighter lockdown restrictions than the rest of England.
On Thursday there were concerns among officials in Oldham that the town — one of Greater Manchester’s ten boroughs — might be locked down further by central government after case numbers continued to rise much faster than than the rest of the region.
Between 2 and 8 August Oldham had a rate of 107.5 per 100,000 population, which increased from 57.8 the previous week.
To put that into context, the UK government is making people quarantine coming back from France because its rate rose above 20 per 100,000 people.
Over the 28 days leading up to the 7 August, numbers of positive cases were highest in those in the working age population, according to this handy data analysis from Oldham council.
At his weekly press conference on Thursday, Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, said he didn’t think it would make sense to single out Oldham for any extra measures — yet.
Closing the pubs and shops wouldn’t necessarily make a difference because most infections are coming from different households mixing — for example at house parties, which are currently illegal according to the guidelines — or by people getting infected at work and then bringing Covid back to their family members.
The latter has been a particular issue in Oldham’s Asian communities who tend to live in large, multi-generational households near the town centre.
Over the 28 days leading up to the 7 August, the highest number of cases in Oldham were in the Asian/Asian British group. But when you look at the pandemic as a whole, the majority of cases were in Oldham’s white community.
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The first train to arrive from Paris on Friday was not full, those who travelled on it said, and not many of those aboard were British holidaymakers coming back.
Carina Ignatiuc, who had been with her two children in Paris staying with her mother and was due to be there until the 21st, was one of the few who got the news and managed to make the booking in time to catch the 0743 from Gare Du Nord - having no choice but to return for family reasons, she said.
I saw it online at about half eleven last night.
We didn’t have anything booked. We had to find the money, book the tickets, and Eurostar just immediately changed the prices - within minutes.
They were £80, then I looked a few minutes later and it was £160, and then £290 a few minutes after that.
Ignatiuc, whose children cheerfully clambered over the luggage trolley as she spoke, said she was “exhausted. I started packing at about one o’clock, and then I had to get the kids up at five, and they had no idea what was going on… I was like, hi girls! We’re going to the train!”
The timing of the announcement was ridiculous, she added. “I don’t think it’s fair on anyone to give this kind of notice,” she said. “If I’m infected today, I’m infected today - what’s so different about tomorrow?”
Still, as she headed off, she seemed wearily relieved to have made it.
If the Eurostar tickets seem steep, spare a thought for travellers trying to make the same journey by plane.
At the time of writing, there were only two seats left with British Airways today from Charles De Gaulle to Heathrow - yours for £451 each.
As for the sudden spike in the cost, a Eurostar spokesperson said, “it’s down to demand, and that’s how our pricing always works.”
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A new YouGov survey has found that four in ten Scots (40%) oppose English people coming to Scotland if they don’t have to quarantine on arrival, with the poll revealing a significant discrepancy in opinion along political lines.
More than half (54%) of SNP voters surveyed said they do not want English tourists to be able cross the border without quarantining, compared to 37% of Scottish Labour voters and 19% of those who voted for the Scottish Conservatives at the 2019 election.
Those opposed to no quarantine are marginally outnumbered by the 47% of Scots who are comfortable with English tourists still being allowed in.
Last month, first minister Nicola Sturgeon refused to rule out introducing quarantine or screening for travellers coming from England if infection rates rise south of the border.
She also urged the handful of independence supporters who have held sporadic protests at the border, waving banners reading “keep Scotland Covid free”, to cease their activities, describing them as “not sensible or helpful”.
Former leader of the Scottish Conservatives Jackson Carlaw laid the blame with the Scottish Nationalists, who he accused of “stoking division at every turn”.