Lecturer argues masks and stricter Covid rules needed in Welsh universities as students return

A lecturer is calling for mandatory mask wearing and clearer Covid rules at universities as students return for the new year.

Dr Simon Williams, from Swansea University, argues more stringent rules will help avoid campus outbreaks of the virus.

The past year and a half has seen many students learning from home and rarely meeting in large groups. However now most coronavirus restrictions have been lifted in Wales, face-to-face learning and the return of fresher's week will mean more mixing.

While government guidance for Welsh universities states they should be taking "reasonable measures" to prevent the spread of Covid, things like face masks are not required in all indoor areas while the rate of infection remains low.

Dr Williams, a senior lecturer in People and Organisation, believes keeping the need for mask-wearing in all university settings is just one way to protect students from catching Covid.

He is also calling for universities to sign-post how well ventilated each room is.

The lecturer claims a lack of clarity and consistency on the rules across different universities will cause problems for staff - making them unsure when, or if, they should enforce measures like mask-wearing.

Dr Williams said it is vital more stringent measures are introduced at universities in Wales in order to prevent Covid outbreaks, like those seen on campuses in America, and stop a return to online learning.

Although face masks are required in indoors public campus areas, students and staff do not need to wear them in classrooms while the Covid risk level is deemed low.

In the same way, official advice states that Welsh universities should "encourage at least 2m physical distancing" in places like corridors which are "indoor communal areas outside of the teaching and learning environment".

President of Cardiff University's Student Union, Hannah Doe, explained that precautions are being taken at their sites to try to prevent Covid outbreaks.

Ms Doe said students are asked to share their vaccination status with the university so they "can keep track of who is vaccinated and the numbers".

She emphasised that those numbers show "the student population is proportionately more vaccinated than the wider society at the moment".