Students at Manchester University had the unsettling experience of realising they are being literally fenced in, as workers began erecting barriers around their halls.
One first year law student noticed the construction around the Fallowfield Campus on Thursday afternoon and was left to make her own inquiries as to what was going on.
The 19-year-old was brought to tears when she was informed by workers that they had been instructed by the university to erect fences as part of security measures to halt the spread of Covid-19.
HuffPost UK has had confirmation from the university about the measures – an official communication our source still hasn’t had herself.
A University of Manchester spokesperson has apologised, stating: “Regrettably, the fencing began to be installed ahead of the message being received by halls students.
“We apologise for any worry that this has caused and would like to reiterate that all students who live on site can continue to come and go freely.”
Our source said: “It’s really eerie, it does feel a bit like a prison. Apparently there will be gates and we will be given wristbands to come in and out. We’ve heard nothing and we’ve been crying and it’s just adding to the stress.
“We’ve had no emails from them at all. The only email we’ve had today is about a cocktail masterclass which is obviously the least relevant thing right now, we’d rather have heard about this.”
In a statement, a University of Manchester spokesperson said: “In response to the national four-week lockdown we are introducing new security measures at key entrance points to our campus, accommodation and main pedestrian routes to help keep our students, our staff and our community safe.
“A security presence will be increased in these areas and fencing displaying important Covid-19 health messages will be installed. This fencing is designed to help highlight main entrance areas, where security staff will ensure that only students who live in that accommodation can access safely and help avoid the mixing of households.
“We understand these are challenging times, and we are extremely grateful to all of our students who are following the guidelines and making adjustments to their lives to help keep our community safe.
“If our students need support at any time they can contact their ResLife team for assistance and advice, or their Duty ResLife Advisor can also be contacted for any emergencies out of ours. For general Covid-19 support and enquiries they should email firstname.lastname@example.org.”
The student, who asked to remain anonymous and is away from home for the first time, added: “We should have had prior communication before they started doing it so we’d know what was going on.
“I think it’s excessive. The way they’ve done it is appalling, not telling us at all.
“There’s a lot of people saying they want to go home. They just don’t want to be on campuses anymore and international students can’t go home and see their families so it’s quite distressing for a lot of people.
“Right now there are a lot of people who are meant to be in lectures and they’ve left their lectures to come and see what’s going on.”
The student, who tested positive for coronavirus during the first wave, is fearful about what will happen next, claiming that under the previous lockdown she did not receive food deliveries during time spent in isolation, but received three days of fresh food immediately after she was no longer isolating.
She added: “We had no freezer space to freeze it and couldn’t donate it due to us testing positive for coronavirus so we had to throw away so many meals. We’re not sure what’s going to happen this time.”
Last month students at the university – as well as others from Bristol – organised rent strikes to protest their treatment while in isolation.
Many complained of being sent unsuitable food boxes, either with not enough food, food that does not match their dietary requirements or female students not being given sanitary products.
Around 40,000 students attend Manchester University, which has a staff of around 12,500.
In an update on coronavirus infection rates last month, the university said positive student cases had increased very rapidly from almost no cases to over 200 in just four days. It added that reported infections were now declining.