OXFORD University has said it is committed to making the city safe from Covid as students return, after officials faced a grilling from residents at a 'town hall meeting'.

Freshers are due to start their first term at the university on Sunday, with other students returning later next week.

A virtual meeting was held on Tuesday night, when Oxford residents were reassured steps had been taken to prevent a repeat of what happened when Oxford Brookes students arrived: large, outdoor gatherings of hundreds of students which were not 'Covid secure'.

Jan Royall, the principle of Oxford University's Somerville College, who is part of the board preparing for the return of students, told the Oxford Mail that among the steps taken to make sure students act safely was a public health campaign.

Baroness Royall said: "The message was 'Protect the vulnerable, protect the community, and protect yourself', and community means the whole city of Oxford: We have a duty to protect the citizens to Oxford."

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Though the university is made up of separate colleges, a single approach has been rolled out across its different institutions to limit the spread of coronavirus.

There will be no face-to-face lectures, though small seminars and lab work will be done in person.

Students and staff will have to wear masks for all indoor activities, and many of them have been provided with face coverings by the university.

In accommodation blocks, students are being broken up into households of eight, so the university can isolate them in small groups if they catch coronavirus, rather than having to put whole blocks on quarantine as seen elsewhere in the UK

Most social events will be conducted digitally, but those which are held in colleges face-to-face will be socially distanced and with masks.

Oxford Mail:

Two reuseable facemasks each will be provided to Oxford University staff, and students at many of the colleges

Students are still being allowed to venture out into the city to bars and restaurants, but must obey the rule of six when they do, and some of the larger college bars are still open where social distancing is possible.

Much like Oxford Brookes, which is hosting a public coronavirus testing centre in Headington, Oxford University will open two of its own for students and staff, so public testing capacity is not overwhelmed.

At the town hall meeting on Tuesday night, Baroness Royall and her colleague Professor Karen O'Brien of the Michaelmas Co-ordination Group, joined senior staff from Oxford Brookes University, student union reprentatives, the city council, Thames Valley Police, and the county's public health director Ansaf Azhar.

There were assurances by Prof Anne-Marie Kilday of Oxford Brookes that the university had now stopped large gatherings, and was clamping down on persistent rule breakers by using its own disciplinary measures.

ALSO READ: Our live blog of Tuesday night's town hall meeting

Concerns were raised by one public speaker, Mike Ratcliffe, about how to stop students from getting bored if many of their usual fun time activities were off limits, or if bars were to close at 10pm.

Both universities said online activities were being organised, and there were regular check-ins to make sure students' mental health was good.

There were also concerns however about enmity between the town and gown, including an East Oxford resident called Graziella who said house parties in private rented student accommodation would cause more of a nuisance while people were working from home.

READ AGAIN here about the gatherings which saw hundreds of Oxford Brookes students partying outside their accommodation

Another member of the public, Susan, who said she was part of Divinity Road Area Residents Association, told the meeting that a young person who appeared to be a student had purposefully brushed close to her on the street and walked away laughing to their friends.

Jennifer Hogben of Thames Valley Police said any member of the public who felt threatened by someone else not obeying social distancing rules could call the police on 101.