A major outbreak of Covid-19 at Glasgow University has led to 124 students testing positive.
The university said the actual number of infected students was “likely to be higher”, and added that 600 people were self-isolating.
Details emerged as Scotland’s national clinical director, Prof Jason Leitch, said he was “very concerned” about outbreaks at several universities.
They include Abertay in Dundee and the University of Aberdeen.
The clusters in Glasgow are centred on two halls of residence in the city.
The university said they involved the Murano Street and Cairncross residences, and were largely due to social activity at the start of Freshers Week, from 12-14 September.
In a statement it said: “The total number of reported cases since the start of term is 124 but the actual number is likely to be higher.
“Over 600 students are isolating across all residences. We are not aware of any students who have had to receive hospital treatment.”
The statement added that those students affected had access to food and other supplies. Advice on medical issues including mental health and wellbeing was also being made available.
The Murano Street Student Village is the largest residence at University of Glasgow, with more than 1,100 student bedrooms.
In total, about 2,500 spaces are available in seven residences for students at the city’s universities.
The university said any students found to be breaking the rules faced disciplinary action including termination of their accommodation contracts and suspension from the university.
A mobile testing centre will be set up at Murano and student unions will be closed this weekend.
The Glasgow outbreak is one of a number linked to student residences across Scotland.
All 500 residents at Parker House in Dundee have been asked to self-isolate until contact tracing is complete after three confirmed coronavirus cases at Abertay University.
In Aberdeen, 72 residents at Hillhead student village are self-isolating after students tested positive.
Aberdeen University has urged anyone who attended parties or other gatherings since Friday to come forward to aid contact tracing efforts, and promised that if they do so they will not be punished for breaching guidance.
Prof Leitch described the Glasgow University outbreak as “significant” and issued a warning to students about attending house parties during Wednesday’s daily coronavirus briefing.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast on Thursday, he said: “I am concerned, very concerned, about higher and further education, I always have been.
“Predictably, we have cases. Every country in the world that has brought universities back has got cases.
“We need to be very, very careful. Even though most of those cases will not get serious illness, some of them will and some of them will potentially spread it to the community.”
Prof Leitch has said students will be allowed to return to their family homes “but they should think hard about that”.
“If you are not self-isolating and have no symptoms, you can go home for the holidays etc,” he said.
“But we would ask you to think carefully about that. We don’t want too much spread – particularly from high areas to low areas.
“So maybe not as often as you normally would, but it’s not illegal.”
UK health secretary Matt Hancock has refused to rule out banning students from returning home at Christmas.
What went wrong during Freshers Week?
One student at Cairncross House told BBC Scotland she was asked to quarantine on Sunday – a week after arriving in the city.
Under Scottish government guidelines, students in residences are assigned to “households” based on shared facilities such as kitchens.
She said two people in her household of eight had tested positive for coronavirus.
They are mainly reporting a loss of taste or smell, and a slight fever, she said.
It appears to have spread through the residence in Freshers’ Week, when students mixed with people outside their households.
“I don’t think people were being too wildly unsensible,” the student said.
“People were mixing outside of their households because I mean it was Freshers Week, people weren’t going to stay in their own kitchens and not do anything.
“But I don’t think people were being too crazy. There haven’t been massive parties.”
She said they have been advised to wear masks when they leave their rooms to use shared kitchens, and to order supermarket deliveries.
But she was able to continue her studies as all her classes are online.
“It’s a bit strange,” she said. “It does get a bit hard to concentrate when you’re sitting in your room from 9-5 and you can’t go out for a walk to clear your head.
“At the same time, it’s nice to have the work to occupy my time. But it’s only day three, so it might get harder.”
‘No fault of students’
Nicola Sturgeon said the Glasgow University outbreak had affected the daily Covid-19 infection figure for the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde area.
A total of 224 cases were recorded across the health board area in the past day, she said.
She said the outbreaks were in “no way shape or form” the fault of students, but she urged them to follow the FACTS advice and abide by the new restrictions on household gatherings.
The president of the National Union of Students in Scotland, Matt Crilly, said many students were concerned by the rising number of cases linked to universities and colleges.
“It’s a really difficult time,” he said. “Obviously, they’ve been asked by their university or college to return to campus and they’re now living in halls and they’re really worried.
“We’re all really worried about this spate of outbreaks of Covid cases around us.”
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