University bosses have reportedly warned students to remove protest signs from their accommodation windows.
Some 1,700 students at Manchester Metropolitan were put into a lockdown on Friday without any warning, after 127 students tested positive for Covid-19.
Even if they showed no symptoms, students at the Birley campus and Cambridge Halls were told to self-isolate for 14 days, leaving many left wondering how they would get food and essential supplies.
The handling of the situation has been heavily criticised by the students, who
claim they received no warning of the stringent measures and hit back by sticking posters to their windows.
One sign read ‘Tories out’ and ‘f*ck Boris’, while another described the halls as ‘HMP MMU’ – referring to Her Majesty’s Prison Service.
In an email reportedly sent from Student Living, students were told to remove the posters: ‘We are contacting you all today to ask for the signs which are on display on the windows in your flat need to be removed.
‘Please ensure these are removed asap.’
Students at the Birley campus described scenes of confusion and fear as security staff arrived to enforce the lockdown before many of them had received any official communication from the university.
First-year filmmaking student, Dominic Waddell, 21, said: ‘A few people got an email to announce they were locking down my accommodation, but not everyone got that so there was a big freak-out with everyone.
‘There was a security guard that then just arrived at the gate of our accommodation and he wasn’t letting anybody leave, not really explaining what was going on.’
Megan Tingey, 19, is a fresher at the Birley Naylor halls. She and most of her flatmates had tested positive for Covid-19 three weeks ago.
She said: ‘We haven’t really received any advice about how to get food in, obviously we hadn’t done a food shop.
‘I presume we can order stuff to the gate and they can leave it there but
I’m not sure. They gave us no time to prepare, if they had given us a day
we could have gone out and stocked up.’
Officials at the university said the lockdown was ‘necessary’ to prevent the spread of Covid-19 to other students, staff and the local community.
In an update to students, the university said: ‘As you know, this was a decision taken in conjunction with Public Health England and Manchester City Council, and was taken on the basis of the latest data.
‘With more than 100 students testing positive for Covid-19 in the halls, the decision was deemed necessary to prevent the spread of the virus to other students, staff or the local community.
‘We appreciate your many concerns about the impact of this isolation period and we are working hard to put plans in place to help you in the coming days.’
Among the emergency plans are increased food deliveries from a local supermarket.
Professor Malcolm Press, Vice-Chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan, said: ‘I recognise the impact that this situation is having on our students, particularly given the extremely short period of time we had to inform them of the decision. Many of them are away from home for the first time and still finding their feet.
‘Their welfare is our top priority and that is why we have been working hard with organisations around the city since Friday evening to put in place support to help during this 14-day period.
‘We are urgently preparing a care package which we hope will ensure students will have the essentials they require in halls, plus financial support to assist them through this challenging period.
‘We expect students to follow the guidance for self-isolation set out by the Government and Public Health England. Our staff are on hand 24 hours a day to provide support, guidance and deal with concerns.
‘We are unable to prevent our students from leaving the halls, but our students are bright young adults and we trust that they will do the right thing.’
Across the UK, students have been protesting against lockdowns on university campuses.
At Glasgow University, self-isolating students put up signs saying ‘students not criminals’ and ‘help us, send beer’ after 120 students tested positive for Covid-19.
Earlier this week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock refused to rule out banning students from returning home for Christmas, to limit the spread of the virus.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show earlier today, shadow justice secretary David Lammy MP described the government’s failure to put a track and trace system in place for students to return home for Christmas as ‘pathetic’.
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