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Queen’s University (QUB) is to offer students a ‘rent holiday’ of up to three months if they want to leave their university accommodation.

About 3,500 students live in halls of residence run by the university.

They have been told they do not have to pay rent if they want to move out of that accommodation for up to three months to study at home.

The university said 27 new cases of Covid-19 are being identified among students each day.

This is based on a seven-day rolling average.

Pro Vice Chancellor Prof Stuart Elborn said around half of the daily cases are identified at the Elms BT9 halls of residence in south Belfast.

He said the data is “consistent with infection in other regions in Northern Ireland” and the result of “careful monitoring and contact tracing”.

“For the next term if they wish to suspend their contract we will do that and we will continue to review this with our students, with our student body and with the Public Health Agency,” he told BBC News NI’s Good Morning Ulster.

“The situation is changing every month, every week indeed.”

‘Safe and welcoming’

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many students are taking most of their degree courses online.

However, in the first two weeks of the university term at Queen’s there have been more than 160 positive Covid-19 cases with almost 400 students and staff self-isolating as a result.

Almost half of those students self-isolating are living in the Elms BT9 site.

In a statement QUB said their student accommodation was safe and welcoming, and they were supporting the minority of students who were self-isolating.

“However, despite this we recognise that this semester a small proportion of students may decide that they would prefer to complete the online elements of their studies from home and/or commute for study,” a university spokesperson said.

“In these circumstances, the university will agree to pause their contractual obligations for the remainder of the semester so they do not have to pay rent between 9 October and 9 January.

“If asked to self-isolate, students will also not be charged rent for the initial 14-day period.”

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Liam McBurney/PA Wire

The spokesperson said that it would be informing students of the arrangements on Friday.

They also asked students to continue to follow public health guidelines and avoid “unnecessary travel”.

The university also appealed for students to “consider the risks of returning to their family home when many young people may be asymptomatic”.

Many students from Northern Ireland who live in university accommodation during the week return to their family home at weekends.

The National Union of Students – Union of Students in Ireland (NUS-USI) has previously called for students to be freed from accommodation contracts if they decide to leave halls of residence.