With new lockdown rules falling into place across the country, university students are panicking over self-isolation and whether they’ll make it home for Christmas. So what’s being done to ensure students can get home and return safely to campus in the new year?
So far, new rapid Covid tests which can give results in an hour, are being administered to universities across England, which could help students get home in time for Christmas.
In England, over a million students are expected to move from a university to a home address in another region during December, where there might be different levels of restrictions and infections.
This has heightened concerns about increasing the transmission of coronavirus as students will move across the country between areas with different infection levels.
A decision is still awaited on the logistics of getting students home for Christmas in a way that will not cause Covid outbreaks, involving all four devolved governments and educated ministries in the UK.
According to tracking by the Unicovid website, there have been cases of Covid in 118 universities across the UK this term, with tens of thousands of students having to self-isolate.
Therefore, universities who would face the challenge of keeping students in Christmas isolation, have urged for a quicker system of mass testing.
So far, pilot projects for rapid Covid testing are being run at De Montford and Durham universities. These also include pinpointing people who don’t have any symptoms but might be infectious.
Students are already facing a nightmare before and after Christmas this year as ministers are forcing students into two periods of self-isolation.
This includes a fortnight of self-isolation on campus, in their halls of residence, before leaving for winter break.
They will then be ordered to carry out another two weeks of isolation at home following festive break before they return to their universities.
With some universities set to break for Christmas as early as December 7, ministers are in a rush to arrange plans and are working closely with vice-chancellors to give them time to prepare.
The decision comes after students at the halls of residence in the University of Oxford have gone into lockdown after 91 students positively tested for coronavirus.
How are some students feeling?
Though a lot of students are worried about making it home, some students are worried about the new isolation rules ministers are set to introduce. Yalda Farhad, a fourth-year medic at the University of Nottingham, has been staying at hospital accommodation.
“I feel it’s not fair that we have to self isolate for two periods, and the reason for that is that the current guideline is to self isolate if you’ve been in contact with someone positive or with signs and symptoms of Covid, and to force that self isolation on everyone is basically overriding the guidelines and makes no sense, in my opinion.
“Since I work in a hospital environment, having to self isolate for a total of 4 weeks would result in me losing a lot of time for work placements, which has already been cut due to lockdowns.” She told of Voice of London.
Chloe Rose, a third year Journalism student at the University of Westminster felt the new rules are also unfair. “I think it’s a lot to ask of students considering how much stress people have already been under thinking that they’re not going to be allowed to go home for Christmas at all.”
As someone who lives in halls of residence, Chloe always feels on edge because she could be forced into isolation for two weeks at any given time. She continues, “I also think it’s a lot to ask because many students have jobs in the city of their university and to lose a whole month’s wages just to be able to spend Christmas at home is ridiculous.
“Especially when it’s likely the government wound never ask this of any other group of people but they seem to think they can treat students any way they want.”
Warshma Chughtai, also a Journalism student at the University of Westminster, faces additional difficulties in terms of travel as an International student studying in the UK. “It has been a frustrating year and everything that is happening now is just adding to it. The two period isolation scheme doesn’t make sense to me since almost all the airlines have a policy that passengers have to get tested within 96 hours before travelling and we can only travel if the result is negative, so the isolation is pointless.”
Words: Dina Nazari | Subediting: Grace Staley