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Highlands and Islands Students' Association (HISA) joins National Union of Students (NUS) in hitting out at 'unfair blame game' after return to universities prompts a rise in Covid-19 coronavirus cases

By Philip Murray

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HISA president Florence Jansen.
HISA president Florence Jansen.

THE "unfair" Covid blame game needs to stop, fed up students in the Highlands have told politicians.

The Highlands and Islands Students' Association has added its voice to a growing number of bodies which have criticised politicians across the UK for singling out students in the wake of rising coronavirus infection rates.

In line with government advice, students across Scotland headed to back universities earlier this month for the start of the new academic year – but experts had warned the authorities that this could lead to a rise in cases.

There have since been outbreaks in halls of residence in the likes of Glasgow and Edinburgh, forcing students to self-isolate with people they have only just met.

And, in recent days, guidance issued by the likes of Universities Scotland and the Scottish Government has told students not to go to pubs, parties or restaurants this weekend in a bid to control the spread of the virus.

Student bodies believe criticism in some of the national press, coupled with the new controls, paint an unfair picture – especially when they had been actively encouraged to return to campus and accommodation.

HISA believes that the current escalation of cases in Scotland was "inevitable given the decisions made across the sector", and said it stands with the National Union of Scotlands (NUS) in arguing that recent announcements "unfairly blame students for the spread of coronavirus and takes the unjustified step of applying different rules to students over and above the rest of the adult population".

HISA President, Florence Jansen, said: “Many of our students would not have returned to their accommodation if they had not been encouraged to do so by the government, and especially if they thought that they would not be allowed to return home as a result.

"Despite this, our students across the University of the Highlands and Islands are doing their very best given the current circumstances, and their welfare is our main priority as always.

“What has to be remembered, is that students are just normal people. They need to follow the guidance like everyone else and are not to blame for the escalation of cases across the country.

"The Scottish Government applying different regulations to students over and above the rest of the adult population is deeply concerning, and the additional guidance is only contributing to confusion over the guidelines.

“We need to protect our students and communities now more than ever. Many rely on work in the hospitality industry for their income, and the ongoing challenges of Covid are taking a major toll on students’ mental health and wellbeing.

"In line with NUS, HISA is calling for targeted support for students who are isolating and increased mental health support for those in need. If blame is being apportioned it should be to those that are putting economics ahead of public health.”

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