Sheffield universities preparing for 'humongous challenge' of sending students home safely

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Both of Sheffield's universities are preparing to safely return students home for the Christmas holidays, the director for public health has said. 

Greg Fell gave an update on the city's progress with tackling Covid-19 to the adult social care scrutiny committee in a meeting last night. 

A number of questions were asked about how the universities were planning to return the 60,000-strong Sheffield student population to homes across the country and abroad. 

Yesterday the government announced students in England would be allocated a date to leave halls for home between the 3rd and 9th of December and many would be offered Covid tests.

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Mr Fell said: "We are working with both universities, both I think have put an expression of interest in testing their students to enable safe return.

"What we as an organisation and team will not, and can't, be doing is the logistics of the delivery of this. It's a significant logistical exercise, I don't think they will be testing all 60,000 students - I think both universities will use some judgement about where and how they prioritise that.

"It's a humongous logistic challenge, they have three weeks to get organised in order to get people tested by the time we want to start sending students home - it's a huge challenge, there are no two ways about that."

The Department for Education said universities in England would now start working with their local public health teams and local transport operators to manage the mass movement in a staggered fashion.

They should soon begin contacting students with allocated travel days, and some may hire coaches to help with the transportation.