Updated: Sep 8, 2021
As of August 9th, the majority of COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in Scotland. While this is an encouraging sign of the world slowly beginning the process of recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, it is important to understand what lifting these restrictions will look like in practice during the 2021-22 academic year.
Social distancing is no longer a legal requirement and limits on social gatherings have largely been removed. It will be possible for groups of up to 2,000 people to gather indoors, and 5,000 people to gather outdoors, without Government pre-approval. However, pre-existing mask requirements still largely remain in place. So, in indoor settings such as shops, hospitality venues, and on public transport, face coverings must be worn.
Self-isolation for those who have been in close contact with a COVID-positive individual will no longer be automatically enforced. All fully vaccinated adults may end their period of isolation early provided that they are fully vaccinated and provide a negative PCR test. If you return a positive test after being in close contact or developing symptoms, you must self-isolate for 10 days.
Travel is also being made easier. Those entering Scotland from an amber list country no longer need to isolate if they have been fully vaccinated in the UK, an EU member state, a European Free Trade Association (EFTA) country (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland), Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City, or the USA. Travelers from green list countries also do not have to quarantine upon arrival.
The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, discussing the lifting of restrictions in a speech on the 3 August, 2021, stated that, “...while this move will restore a substantial degree of normality, it is important to be clear that it does not signal the end of the pandemic or a return to life exactly as we knew it before COVID struck.”
“Declaring freedom from, or victory over, this virus is in my view premature. The harm the virus can do, including through the impact of long COVID, shouldn’t be underestimated and its ability to mutate may yet pose us real challenges,” she continued.
The Government’s decision to lift most restrictions allows for the implementation of University’s plan to return to in-person teaching, beginning semester one.
Lectures of over 35 are expected to remain online. However, all small lectures and tutorials will take place in person for students who are able to attend. Additionally, social distancing will be an option for students who wish to practice it.
Thus, while masks are to remain in place, it is likely that much of the teaching of the 2021-22 academic year will resemble the pre-pandemic world much more closely than that of last year.
Social life in St Andrews should also begin to resemble a more normal university experience. Bars and restaurants will be free to open, and students will once again be able to gather in large numbers, both indoors and outdoors. However, masks remain mandatory unless seated in a bar, while mandatory unless sitting or on the dancefloor in a nightclub. Furthermore, the Test and Protect contact tracing programme will remain in place.
How this will affect hall life still remains to be seen. Students will still have to wear masks in common areas and to meals. However, at time of writing, the University is yet to announce further details.
In an email to the University on 28 June, 2021, Principal and Vice-Chancellor Sally Mapstone shared her thoughts on the upcoming changes to COVID protocol,
“Learning to live with the virus in our midst will take time, which is why a semester of transition is the right thing to do, a semester in which we are able to re-discover all the things which make St Andrews special, but recognise that, at a very fundamental level, each of us has a continuing responsibility for the health, safety, and wellbeing of all in our community.”