Students in Scotland have been told they cannot currently return home to see their relatives as they belong to different households, and also must avoid the pub this weekend.
The country’s national clinical director clarified that new rules banning household mixing indoors affect students amid a backdrop of coronavirus clusters at Scottish universities.
And students have been told not to go to pubs and those who repeatedly flout coronavirus guidelines could be thrown out of university, under new rules.
“Was asked last night whether students in halls and flats can go back to parents’ homes,” Jason Leitch, the Scottish government’s national clinical director, tweeted on Thursday.
“To clarify, they are a separate household.”
He added: “There are exceptions, eg caring responsibilities, but the law is clear: they can’t meet indoors with another household – even mum and dad. Sorry.”
His comments come after Matt Hancock, the UK health secretary, said he is not ruling out asking students to stay on campus over the Christmas holidays as a measure to tackle the spread of coronavirus, but that it was something the government wanted to avoid.
Coronavirus clusters have been identified at several Scottish universities.
A total of 120 cases of coronavirus have been identified in an outbreak at Edinburgh Napier University.
NHS Lothian said the positive results had been confirmed from the establishment by Thursday morning, while there was a small number at the University of Edinburgh and Queen Margaret University.
In Dundee, 500 Abertay University students were asked to self-isolate this week in student accommodation where three people have tested positive.
Representatives from higher education in Scotland met to discuss a range of measures which would be introduced amid concerns over a number of outbreaks since term started.
1/ To all students - I’m so sorry COVID is making this special time of your lives so tough. But it won’t be forever and the more we get the virus back under control now, the sooner you’ll get a bit of normality back. So, please do what’s being asked of you— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) September 24, 2020
It has seen students required to download the Protect Scotland tracing app and they have been asked not to attend bars at the weekend.
Universities have also now agreed to introduce a "yellow card, red card" system for breaches of student discipline that put students and others at risk, which could result in an end to their studies.
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, tweeted a message to students on Thursday, saying she was sorry coronavirus was making a “special time” for them “so tough".
“It won’t be forever and the more we get the virus back under control now, the sooner you’ll get a bit of normality back,” she said. “So, please do what’s being asked of you.”
She also reminded students Universities Scotland’s advice to stay away from pubs and hospitality venues was "just for this weekend".
Scotland announced new rules to stem the spread of coronavirus this week, including a ban on household mixing indoors and a 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants.
Additional reporting by Press Association