Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed that Oxfordshire, including the city of Oxford, is to go into Tier 4 from one minute past midnight on Boxing Day. Hancock said in a press conference this afternoon: “We all know that 2020 has been a hard year and it’s ending in this festive period which is going to be very different.” 

This follows a significant increase in COVID-19 cases in the county. In the seven days before December 18th, cases in Oxford rose by 58% from the week before. Cases in Oxfordshire as a whole rose by 86%.

Eight cases of the new variant of COVID-19 have been identified in Oxfordshire, all of which are in the city of Oxford. This variant, known as VUI-202012/01, may be spread 70% more easily than previous variants of the disease. There is no evidence that it causes more serious cases of the disease or is more deadly.

Under current government guidance, universities are expected to remain open in areas under Tier 4 restrictions. People in these areas have to “stay at home” unless they have a “reasonable excuse”, examples of which are listed on the government’s guidance pages. These restrictions mean people “must not meet socially or carry out any activities with another person” indoors. However, people can meet outdoors socially or for exercise with people from their household or one other person.

Currently, the University has not provided any suggestion that Hilary will be remote. More information regarding returning in Hilary can be found here and here. The Universities Minister has confirmed that students who are living in university accommodation over the vacation may return home for Christmas, even if their home is under Tier 4 restrictions. However, it is unclear whether this will apply to returning for next term.

Full guidance for living under Tier 4 can be found here.

Image: Amir Pichhadze

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