Students say the prospect of a locked down Christmas is overshadowing their first few weeks at university as Number 10 softened its stance over whether they will be allowed to go home.
The idea of spending the festive season in self isolation is weighing heavily on people’s minds as they navigate the start of term, freshers have told Metro.co.uk.
Some have already decided to give up and defer for the year while others have spoken about their fears over the long term impact on their mental health.
It comes as Downing Street moved into reassurance mode earlier, saying it ‘expects’ students to be allowed to go home for the holiday, after days of warnings that they might not.
Glasgow student Rose Dickson, 18, has had to go into self-isolation along with the rest of her flat after developing a persistent cough earlier in the week.
She’s awaiting the result of a coronavirus test and worries she may have caught the infection on a bus, after 172 students tested positive at the Murano Street student village, two miles from where she lives at Wolfson Hall.
At least 10 of her neighbours have had to go into quarantine with her and they can’t speak to each other without face masks or go outside to exercise.
All lectures have been pre-recorded and they can watch them when they like. The university is providing them with meals that are left on trays outside their doors.
Speaking to Metro.co.uk, Rose said: ‘These meals are sometimes fairly random. One of my flatmates got given half a roast chicken but nothing else. No potatoes, or veg or anything.
‘Another who is a vegetarian got a meal that definitely wasn’t vegetarian. We can eat when we want and they come and collect the trays. We’re all losing our sense of time somewhat.’
Rose has to make the long trip to Surrey to get back to see her family and said she’s not sure when she’s going to be able to see them again.
She said: ‘A lot of people are worrying about Christmas. We don’t know how it is going to work at the moment. Some are saying we might have to self-isolate beforehand but then there is the long train journey to think about.
‘I have heard that some people have decided to leave halls already. We’re not sure if they are going to come back.’
Earlier Nicola Sturgeon said it was her ‘priority’ to make sure students could go back home for Christmas and said she understood why many will have concerns.
Speaking directly to students during her coronavirus briefing in the Scottish Parliament, she said: ‘Don’t assume that the rules in place now for home visits will still apply at Christmas.
‘We review the rules every three weeks and that’s why we cannot provide specific guidance for Christmas right now because that will of course depend on the course of the pandemic but I want to be very clear that it is absolutely our priority to make sure students can go home for Christmas as I know everybody will want to do.’
In other developments, students stuck in self isolation at Manchester Metropolitan university have been promised ‘more than a week’s rent’ in compensation.
Vice Chancellor Professor Malcolm Press told Sky News ‘a significant amount of money’ would be given, on top of a care package that includes ‘basic food’, to ensure students felt ‘protected and cared for’.
Even students at universities that haven’t yet seen mass outbreaks of the virus are struggling to adapt to university-life during a pandemic.
One student at Royal Holloway University in London, who didn’t wish to be named, said talk of cancelling Christmas for students has left people horrified.
She said: ‘I think for people like me and my flat, who have all been sticking to the rules, it’s a horrible thing to think about – we have followed the national rules and the university rules and if we were then told that we couldn’t go home it sort of invalidates the entire exercise.
‘If none of us can leave campus over holidays anyway then why should anybody keep their distance from other people on campus, as we don’t pose a risk to anyone outside if we aren’t allowed to go home.’
She said that people have been left confused about what they can and can’t do and it’s left them struggling to meet people from outside their flats.
‘I’ve been lucky with my flatmates, who I get on with really well, but it’s definitely really hard to get to know anyone outside of the flat,’ she said.
‘Some people have tried to do outdoor meet ups for people on their course but it can’t be for more than six people at a time so it’s very limiting and it is one aspect that everybody is struggling with.’
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