STUDENTS in Scotland have been ordered not to return home to visit their families as they are now a “separate household” and legally off-limits.

National Clinical Director Professor Jason Leitch said the law on indoor meetings applied to “even mum and dad”.

However meetings between two households of up to six people are still allowed outdoors and in pubs, and there are exceptions on home visits for carers.

Prof Leitch last night told BBC Reporting Scotland that students could go home for the weekend. 

He said: "They can but we would ask them to maybe think hard about that. It's not going to be illegal. Nobody's going to put barriers up." 

This morning, he also said they had discretion, but should "think very carefully" about home visits.

But in an update on Twitter this lunchtime, Prof Leitch changed position and sought to "clarify" his mistake.

He said: “Was asked last night whether students in halls and flats can go back to parents’ homes. To clarify, they are a separate household. 

“There are exceptions, eg caring responsibilities, but the law is clear: they can’t meet indoors with another household – even mum and dad. Sorry.”

READ MORE: More than 124 students test positive for coronavirus in Glasgow as university confirms two 'significant' clusters

More than 1,000 students are currently self-isolating in student halls around Scotland, including 600 in Glasgow after 124 positive cases were diagnosed.

Another 500 are self-isolating at Abertay University in Dundee and 72 in halls in Aberdeen. 

Prof Leitch had earlier suggested students had discretion over whether to go home.

He told the BBC this morning they should think “very carefully about weekends at home”, but did not rule it out.

He said: “I’m worried about people going to areas with infection and coming back with infection, not just for Christmas but for weekends, for perhaps special events at home.

"I would like them to think very very carefully about weekends at home, and think about how they can make that as safe as they can.

"I think we’ll have to take a view, in the next couple of months, about what we do at Christmas time.

"I think asking everyone to stay in their halls of residence for the two week holiday period over christmas is unrealistic, but we will have to put in place something that helps us keep safe.

"Christmas is going to be a difficult period to live with covid, so we’re going to have to think very carefully across the world and across the UK about how we do that."

At FMQs, Nicola Sturgeon was accused by opposition of failing to prepare for a foreseeable rise in Covid cases on campus with the start of the academic year.

READ MORE: Two deaths and 465 new cases of Covid-19

One of the First Minister’s advisers on the pandemic, Edinburgh University’s Professor Devi Sridhar, has repeatedly called for mass testing of students on campus.

She said in the summer that all students should be tested on arrival, either at airports or within universities, followed by a second round of tests five days later.

She said on Twitter in July the risk of transmission was greater in universities than schools.

She said: “Schools different to universities bc schools usually bring kids together from a geographically-bound local community. 

“Universities bring people from across the world together. Usually fantastic, but exactly how viruses can spread easily. Need strong testing & quarantine policies.”

Ms Sturgeon's official spokesman said it was too early to say if students would be allowed home for Christmas, and said mass testing was not foolproof and could give infected people a false sense of security about being virus-free before developing symptoms.