Students ‘scared and confused’ as halls locked down ‘without warning’

Students at a university described being scared and confused as their accommodation was locked down without warning.

Hundreds of students at Manchester Metropolitan University have been told to stay in their rooms for 14 days after 127 tested positive for coronavirus.

But students at the Birley campus described confusion as security staff arrived to enforce the lockdown on Friday, before many of them had received any official communication from the university to tell them what was happening.

Dominic Waddell, a first-year filmmaking student, told PA: “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, a 19-year-old criminology student, said police also turned up outside her Birley Vine accommodation.

“It was quite scary and confusing,” she told PA. “A police van turned up and there were police outside the gate, quite a lot of them just walking around looking at everyone, especially because we didn’t know what was going on.

“No one’s really told us much and then the police turn up as well with security outside – it’s a really, really difficult situation.”

Ms Tingey said that by Saturday afternoon she still had not received an email from the university, though most of her friends had.

For those in her flat, she said, it was particularly tough as they were only just emerging from isolation having themselves tested positive for the virus around 10 days ago.

Megan Tingey, a Manchester Metropolitan University student
Megan Tingey, a Manchester Metropolitan University student

“I think petty much everyone in our accommodation finished their self isolation around yesterday, so I think doing a lockdown of the building now is quite bad considering we’ve all just come out of it,” Ms Tingey said.

Ms Tingey said she briefly had a mild cough but that none of her flatmates were now showing any symptoms.

Many students were left wondering how they would stock their shelves as they were not allowed to go out to buy food.

Mr Waddell, 21, said: “They’re saying ‘the safety and wellbeing of our students and staff and the local community is our top priority’ but it doesn’t really seem like that if they haven’t allowed us time to prepare for this.

“Even if they’d just given us 12 hours notice that would have been something.”

Mr Waddell now faces spending the next two weeks with the 11 other people in his house, who he only met for the first time two weeks ago.

He said the situation had been “pretty poorly handled” and that his fellow residents in Birley Naylor were not happy.

Dominic Waddell in Manchester
Dominic Waddell in Manchester

“There’s a lot of confusion still,” he said. “Lots of people are very angry.

“People are jokingly saying we’ll rush the gates and stuff.

“There’s a lot of confusion, frustration, worry that you’re not going to be able to get food – I think that’s the main worry.”

Ms Tingey said she believes there “should be some form of refund for students” while Mr Waddell said he hoped the university will step in to help out those who are struggling.

He said: “Given the amount of money we’re giving them…they can use that money to put in some provisions for food care packages and things like that, I think that’s something that would help a lot of students.”

According to the Manchester Evening News, 1,700 students have been locked down at the Birley campus and Cambridge Halls.

PA has contacted the university for comment.