Coronavirus: Manchester Metropolitan University students in lockdown

25 September 2020, 19:47 | Updated: 25 September 2020, 20:37

Student halls at Manchester Metropolitan University have been placed into self-isolation
Student halls at Manchester Metropolitan University have been placed into self-isolation. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Students living at two Manchester Metropolitan University accommodation blocks have been put in lockdown after 127 Covid-19 cases were confirmed.

Over 1,700 student in the Birley campus and Cambridge Hall blocks at the university has been asked to self-isolate for 14 days by the University and Manchester City Council.

It is thought some students may have been attending parties and gatherings.

David Regan, Public Health Director for Manchester, said: “An important part of Manchester’s Local Response and Prevention Plan for coronavirus is to keep a close eye on the data and act swiftly and decisively where an outbreak is identified in order to contain the virus. That’s what we’ve done here.”

Dr Yasmin Ahmed-Little, a Consultant in health protection at Public Health England North West, said: “We are working closely with Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester City Council and partners to provide public health advice aimed at helping stop the spread of the virus.

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“We have seen an increase in positive cases and students with symptoms in the University and all students in these accommodation blocks are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms, to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus.

“It is really important for all students follow the advice from the university and the City Council to stay safe. Young people play a crucial role in preventing the spread of coronavirus to protect those at much greater risk.

"If you are one of the students that has been asked to self-isolate please follow the advice and stay in your accommodation to help us prevent the infection from spreading.”

Thousands of students returned to Manchester in September to begin studies
Thousands of students returned to Manchester in September to begin studies. Picture: PA Images

Timothy Sykes, a postgraduate student at the university, told LBC: "I think it's a necessary decision and one that the council and university should have taken, but the fact remains that these decisions are often made too late to make any real difference at all.

"I am concerned and it is something that should concern society as a whole...it is concerning me especially in respect to older people and vulnerable people - I'm technically classed as vulnerable myself."

Asked whether students partying and gathering in large groups was inevitable, he said: "These are Freshers in their first week at university - it's the first time for many of them away from their parents so of course there are going to be people who take full advantage of that.

Read more: UK reports new record high of 6,874 daily coronavirus cases

"The Government's advice hasn't been particularly clear either, especially in areas like Greater Manchester, and it's very confusing for students like me to know what exactly is legal or not.

"Everyone - student and others alike - need to be careful and look after people."

It follows tough new restriction placed on people in Greater Manchester in recent weeks, with a total ban on households mixing announced in Stockport and Wigan on Friday.

Responding to the announcement, University and College Union general secretary Jo Grady said: "This is the latest catastrophe in a week where wholly predictable – and predicted – Covid outbreaks have caused havoc on campuses across the UK.

"We warned last month of the problems with moving thousands of students across the country and the time has come for urgent action from ministers and universities to protect staff and students.

"Manchester Metropolitan University shifting teaching online only for foundation and first year students exposes the total absurdity of the current position of trying to continue with blended learning.

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"There is no point encouraging students to come to university to self-isolate for a fortnight. This was a wholly predictable and unnecessary crisis. It is unfair on students, on staff and on their local communities.

"Despite everything that is happening, there are reports across the country of staff are being bullied into in-person teaching. Enough is enough.

"The government needs to issue clear guidance that universities should move as much as they can online, in line with other workplaces.