Students across Scotland are not being stigmatised in being told to avoid going to pubs this weekend, the higher education minister has said.
Richard Lochhead said the Scottish Government is working with universities and supports the move, which was introduced after representatives from the sector met on Thursday.
A range of measures were discussed amid concern over a number of coronavirus outbreaks since term started, with hundreds of students self-isolating at halls of residence across the country.
Universities have also now agreed to introduce a “yellow card, red card” system for breaches of discipline that put students and others at risk, which could result in an end to their studies.
Mr Lochhead told BBC Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme: “More actions can be taken to curb the spread of the virus on campuses, we’ve got test and protect in place, asking people to self-isolate, making sure that we identify cases.
“This is an ask of the student population of Scotland from universities, the Scottish Government support that, but the universities are asking the students jointly across Scotland this weekend – given we’ve got a number of outbreaks of the virus and some campuses across Scotland – to have the weekend off from socialising outwith the households.
“The vast majority of students have been so responsible, it’s a very tough time for them.
“Imagine being a 17 or 18 or 19-year-old going to university for the first time and of course we’re in the middle of a global pandemic and they’re not able to do what the previous generations were able to do.
“This is about all of us working together, it’s not stigmatising students, it’s not about saying they’re particularly to blame for what’s happening.
“I think it’s a good thing (the universities) are doing.”
Mr Lochhead highlighted that the University of St Andrews recently had a “largely successful” voluntary lockdown with students asked not to socialise in the area one weekend.
Thursday’s coronavirus figures identified 120 cases of Covid-19 in an outbreak at Edinburgh Napier University.
He added: “I can imagine that parents reading the news or speaking to their sons or daughters at universities just now who are self-isolating will be anxious and very concerned for their welfare.
“The universities have a real duty of care for students, and they’re working extremely hard to make sure that welfare and mental health support and other practical support is there for students.
“Secondly we expect universities to be pragmatic where there’s any young person who was not coping or was very anxious, we would very much understand if their parents wanted to meet them or take them home.
“These are exceptional circumstances.”
The First Minister also apologised to students while appealing again that they download the Protect Scotland app as has been required under the new measures from the universities.
Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “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.”