Returning home over the winter break
Going home for the winter break – things to consider
Under regulations, when you came to University you formed a new household with your flatmates. It might seem odd that you are not considered part of a household with your family right now – but this simply means that you’re not living with them in close quarters every day. Minimising the number of households mixing is a critical way to help suppress virus transmission.
COVID-19 is still with us. That means the safest thing to do is avoid mixing with other households over the Christmas period. However, we know that this it’s a challenging time for students, who haven’t seen their loved ones for several months, and who are looking forward to some respite at the end of an unusual and challenging term.
With this in mind, the Scottish Government has published guidance to help students get home and for minimising the risk to new households formed over the Christmas break.
Get the right type of test
There has been some confusion of which test is the correct one for different circumstances. We've created guidance to help you choose the correct COVID-19 test for your situation.
Rules for travelling at the end of term
You can travel from your term-time address to join one other household when the term ends. If the household you’re planning to join is already part of a bubble, you can join that bubble for the festive period.
Travelling to another part of the UK
You can travel to another part of the UK, to homes in Wales, England or Northern Ireland at the end of term. Students are able to travel home at the end of term regardless of the protection level they are living in or moving to. However, you should familiarise yourself with guidance on travelling between Scotland and the rest of the UK and current restrictions in place at your destination.
You can travel to other countries, subject to any travel restrictions in place. You should also follow quarantine rules that apply in your destination country. Remember that even a short layover in some countries may mean you have to quarantine on arrival.
You should get a COVID-19 test before you travel. You should check the entrance requirements for your intended destination to understand what type of test and proof you will be required to submit to gain entry. PCR tests that are processed in a laboratory might be needed – a no symptoms test might not be enough. If you do need a PCR test, you will have to pay for one privately if you do not have symptoms as NHS provision is for those most in need.
The University will reimburse students who require a private PCR test for international travel to get home for the holidays. See more details about how PCR test expenses can be claimed back.
Remember that the advice might change whilst you’re away, so should check the Scottish Government website for updates regularly. Travel corridors are subject to change, meaning that when you leave, you might not be able to get back as planned.
Getting a lift home
Family members from the household you plan to join at the end of term can pick you up from University. This is encouraged where this is practical. You should not share a car with anyone outside your household unless this is essential. This means you shouldn’t share a car with another student unless they are part of your household. In some circumstances, this might not be possible so you should follow guidance on sharing vehicles with others.
Returning home safely
There are some things you can do to make a return home safe for you and your loved ones:
Get a no symptoms test
Some people with COVID-19 have no symptoms. You can get a no symptoms test on campus between 30 November and 8 December. This a free, quick and reliable test, carried out twice, three days apart. It will give you the confidence to know that you’re not taking virus home to loved ones. These tests are not compulsory, but are strongly encouraged. For more information on no symptoms testing, and details of how to register, visit our no symptoms testing page.
Remember: these rapid tests are only for those without symptoms. If you do have symptoms, you have to get a standard PCR Test. Find out more about getting a test if you have COVID-19 symptoms.
Minimise your socialising
Voluntarily reducing your social mixing can further minimise the risk of picking up the virus. This means only leaving your accommodation when it’s essential, for the likes of learning, food shopping and getting some exercise. This is particularly important for students living in levels three or four areas, and those who may be spending time with vulnerable family members over the winter break.
Follow the Scottish Government FACTS guidance to keep yourself and others safe: wear a face covering, avoid crowded places, clean your hands regularly, keep 2m distance from others, self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms.
Avoid travel if you’re sick
The best thing to do if you develop symptoms is to stay where you are. That means you should stay in your accommodation, get a PCR test in the East Car Park or via the NHS, and follow the guidance of self-isolating.
We recognise some people with symptoms and/or who test positive might need extra support to be able to self-isolate. Though it’s not advised, you can travel if you need support from a friend or family member to allow you to follow the guidance. In this case, your new household should self-isolate when you join them.
If you’ve been asked to self-isolate because NHS Test & Protect contact tracing has identified you as a close contact, you should continue to self-isolate on your arrival. In this case, the rest of the household you’re returning to doesn’t need to self-isolate.
Follow self-isolation guidance if you get ill while travelling
If you develop symptoms on your way or receive a positive test result, you should follow self-isolation guidance. Your new household will need to self-isolate too.
Read the protection level/restrictions guidance for your local area
Before you travel, take time to read what local guidance is in place for your destination, as this may be different from what is in place at your term-time address.
Coming back to University for the new term
The Scottish Government is working closely with the higher education sector to make sure that returning to University is safe for students and the wider community. Plans will be set out in the coming weeks, created with input from universities, students and trade unions. We’ll keep you updated as more information on arrangements for the new semester becomes available. We’ll also let you know via email in the usual way.