Britain is planning a strategy to get hundreds of thousands of university students home for Christmas without sparking a new upsurge in coronavirus cases.

Scientists say students travelling from their hometowns to colleges in September was one of the drivers of the current wave of Covid-19 in the U.K. There have been multiple campus outbreaks, with students confined to residences and group activities cancelled.

The British government said Wednesday that it plans to stagger students’ departures at the end of term to avoid a mass exodus. They want universities in England to send students home over a nine-day period after the current four-week lockdown in England ends on December 2.

As many students as possible will get rapid-results Covid-19 tests before they travel, the government said — though it was unclear exactly how many would be tested.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries said “the mass movement of students across the country at the end of term presents a really significant challenge within the Covid-19 response,” but that the measures would reduce the risk.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are likely to bring in similar measures.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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