Coronavirus: Students left studying their own four walls after university lockdowns

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By Hebe Campbell  & The Cube
Signs posted on a window at Manchester Metropolitan University's Birley campus.
Signs posted on a window at Manchester Metropolitan University's Birley campus.   -  Copyright  Peter Byrne/PA via AP

This time of year is meant to herald the start of the academic year for university students: new courses, new lectures and new faces.

But for many across Europe, the reality is instead the same four walls of their lodgings.

Outbreaks of COVID-19 mean universities in Belgium, Switzerland and the United Kingdom have been put on lockdown.

Around 1,700 students have been locked down at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) just a fortnight into the new academic year.

"On Friday we got an email around 5 pm, within two minutes there were security guards on the door," Will, a 19-year-old student law student at MMU, told Euronews.

"They told one of my flatmates they were not allowed to leave (the halls of residence), this was instantly after they sent that email."

Other MMU students, like Gabriel Priest, want more support.

"I have moved from Italy, moving to England and getting into this situation is so difficult for me because I have received no help from the university," said first-year student Gabriel.

"I haven't received my timetables, I haven't received my loan, I haven't managed to open a bank account, so I am struggling. I haven't received any help from a tutor."

"This (the lockdown) makes it so much more difficult to help my parents pay the rent because I cannot go out and find myself a job."

MMU told their locked-down students they can only leave the premises if they are returning home or for a medical emergency. A two-week rent rebate and a £50 grocery gift card were offered to them on Monday night via email, three days after the localised lockdowns were enforced. They have also been offered help with laundry, online shopping priority slots and access to medicine.

"The decision to ask students living in these halls to self-isolate was taken following discussions with Public Health England and Manchester City Council. With 127 students testing positive for the virus, this was a necessary rapid response, to protect our wider community," MMU stated on its website.