Students described being scared and confused as their accommodation was locked down on Friday, as up to 1,700 were told to stay in their rooms at the Birley campus and Cambridge Halls for 14 days after 127 tested positive for coronavirus.
Some at the Birley campus described confusion as security staff arrived to enforce the lockdown before many of them had received any official communication from the university, leaving them wondering how they would stock their shelves as they were not allowed to go out to buy food.
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 plans are the stepping up of food deliveries with the university working in partnership with a local supermarket.
But students were told they were not permitted to travel to a nearby Covid-19 testing centre in Denmark Road and that the university was working with local health services to put another testing system in place.
The university added: “We appreciate this self-isolation period will present difficulties for you, especially coming so soon after your arrival at the university. We are here to support you, and our staff are working hard with local partners to make this period more manageable for you.”
On Saturday, Dominic Waddell, 21, a first-year filmmaking student, told the PA news agency: “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.
“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.”
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.”
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.
“I think pretty 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.