Anger on campuses as freshers given wristbands to signify Covid vaccination

Freshers have been given wristbands to signal whether they are vaccinated against coronavirus amid anger at emerging “two-tier” university campuses. 

Students arriving this week at the University of Bath have been given a different coloured wristband on club nights if they can prove in advance they are double jabbed, or have Covid-19 immunity.

Covid-19 passports are required for nightclub or arena events in Bath students’ union, but those who can only show a negative lateral flow test enter through a different queue.

Parents expressed alarm at “vaccine passports by stealth” as millions of students return for the first Freshers’ Week in two years, despite the Government ditching plans for the certificates for venues in England.

At Sheffield University, students must present a Covid-19 pass to enter freshers events or union nights out, with double-jabbed students and those with negative tests offered separate wristbands to jump queues.

Meanwhile, Cambridge University and two Oxford colleges have asked students to disclose their Covid vaccination status to staff.

Private medical information on display

“We are worried that some universities appear to have implemented what amounts to a vaccine passport via stealth,” said Arabella Skinner, the director of parents group UsForThem.

“The idea of making students display their private medical information in such a public way is unacceptable. This echoes examples of discrimination we have seen in schools through the pandemic and raises concerns of a two-tier system for students to access education.”

One second-year student at Sheffield felt “excluded” when told he could not enter freshers’ fair without a Covid-19 passport, and feared being “shamed in front of friends”.

University students and Covid 2020

At Cambridge, Prof Graham Virgo, the senior pro-vice chancellor for education, has emailed all students asking for their vaccination status in a survey to help “assess risk in different contexts” and “plan outbreak control measures”.

“The higher the rate of vaccination, the less onerous the control measures for everyone,” he wrote.

Lincoln College and St Edmunds Hall at Oxford have asked students to state if they are vaccinated to help plan mitigations around face coverings and visitor numbers.

Organisations must have ‘compelling reasons’ to check status

The Information Commissioner’s Office has previously said organisations need "compelling reasons" to check Covid-19 status, as this is private health data.

At least nine student unions across England are requiring students to show Covid-19 passports to enter their nightclubs, despite no law for such a measure.

Ministers in England were previously considering plans to bring in Covid-19 passports for nightclubs and lectures, but both ideas have been abandoned for now amid outcry at the potential discriminatory effects.

Many institutions have gone beyond advice from the Department for Education for universities, with face masks mandatory indoors on more than half of Russell Group campuses.

A spokesman for Bath students’ union said its "fast-track wristband has been the overwhelmingly popular choice with our students" and helped with "running safe events".

A Cambridge University spokesman said "there is no question of students being treated differently as a result of their response" to its anonymous jab survey, and said it was following DfE guidance.

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