Students across Scotland will be allowed to travel home for Christmas – but will be offered quick-turnaround coronavirus tests before they go.
They are being urged not to socialise for two weeks before leaving their accommodation and asked to only go outside for essential reasons.
Staggered departures will take place in a bid to prevent a surge in movement, higher education minister Richard Lochhead told parliament.
He said: “We will advise any student who wants to return home for the end of term to voluntarily reduce their social mixing for two weeks before going home.
“This means going out only for essential reasons and exercise.
“Universities will be asked to make any necessary adjustments to scheduling to ensure that in-person teaching and assessment ends early enough to allow students time to get home at the end of term.
“I see that Universities Scotland has highlighted the staggered dates for the end of in-person teaching at Scottish universities from late November to mid-December, so they are not expecting a great surge of movement.”
Voluntary testing before they travel will be part of a UK-wide initiative, which will see students take two lateral flow tests over five days with results provided within 20 minutes.
Lochhead said: “We are currently planning on the basis that two tests will be necessary, five days apart, with PCR confirmation for positives, but that position may change as public health professionals and clinicians take account of the new evidence that’s coming forward from England where there’s a number of pilots.”