Ordinarily, people are now banned from leaving their area if they are in tier four apart from specified reasons such as for work or education – and can risk a fine if they do so.
In a letter to students, universities minister Michelle Donelan confirmed that the stricter travel restrictions for people living in a tier four area do not apply to university students who have not yet travelled home for the festive break.
Students will also be able to travel back into a tier four area.
It comes after the majority of students in England were told they could leave university to return to their family home during a ‘travel window’ from December 3-9.
Ms Donelan said she wanted to give ‘clarity and comfort’ to students who are yet to travel, including those on clinical placements or those with jobs in their university town.
In the letter, she said: ‘This Government made a commitment that students could return home for Christmas and we are keeping it.
‘To be clear, any student can travel home once during the period December 3 2020 [to] February 7 2021.
‘As previously stated, students will form part of the household they return to and will not count as a separate household.
‘This remains the case for those who may be preparing to travel from or to a Tier 4 area.’
Ms Donelan added that she would encourage students to take a test before they travel.
She also said that students would be joining an existing household and will not count as a separate one, so bans on household mixing would not apply.
Universities have been told to stagger the return of students over five weeks in the new year to reduce the transmission of Covid-19.
Medical students and those on placements or practical courses with a need for in-person teaching in England can return to campus from January 4, but remaining students should be offered online lessons from the start of term and should only return gradually from January 25, the Government guidance says.