Students stuck in self-isolation at Manchester Metropolitan University will be given financial compensation of more than a week’s rent, its vice-chancellor has said.
Professor Malcolm Press said “a significant amount of money” would be given, on top of a care package that includes “basic food”, to ensure students felt “protected and cared for”.
Speaking to Sky News, he said: “It will be a package that I think students will appreciate, that allows them to rest assured, while they’re in this situation, they don’t have any particular financial worries as a consequence.”
Prof Press said details were being discussed with students, but added that “a financial package means hard cash”, with it representing “more than an actual week’s rent”.
“Students will be receiving financial compensation to ensure that they feel protected and cared for during this period of self-isolation,” he said.
His comments came after Glasgow University said it will refund all students in halls of residence one month’s rent, along with a £50 payment for food, amid an outbreak of coronavirus cases there.
Over the weekend fears were raised among a number of students at Manchester Metropolitan University that they were being falsely imprisoned in their accommodation, with human rights lawyers questioning the legality of security staff enforcing a 14-day isolation period.
Students described being scared and confused as their accommodation was locked down on Friday, after 127 people tested positive for coronavirus.
They were later told the decision, made in conjunction with Public Health England and Manchester City Council, was “deemed necessary” to prevent the spread of the virus to other students, staff or the community.
But Prof Press told Sky News on Monday: “We were asked to ensure (students) would self-isolate because there had been an outbreak of Covid into halls of residence.
“We’re advising students on the rules, what they should do, we’re supporting them, but the idea that they’re not able to leave is just not true I’m afraid.
“Students are free to go should they wish to and a small number of students have gone home in a Covid-secure way.”
Speaking to the PA news agency, students self-isolating at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Birley Hall said they were trying to see “the funny side” of being stuck in their flats for two weeks.
“We’re just trying to make the best out of a bad situation really,” said 19-year-old Mia Winrow, adding: “We’ll get to know each other really well after this.”
She said: “We understand why it has happened at the end of the day, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to stop it… It’s already pretty bad in these halls, so fair enough that they’ve got to do this.”
Niamh Morrow, 19, said students were alerted by email they would have to self-isolate, but an hour after “there was just a security guard on the gate telling us we couldn’t leave.”
Natasha Kutscheruk, 18, said students were initially “stressed” and “panicking”, explaining that the lockdown came a week after another one that was abandoned after the university “changed their mind”.
STUDENT UPDATE: If you are self-isolating in Birley & Cambridge Halls, please check your inbox for an important email. It contains clarification around some issues that we know matter to you, as well as an update on the development of a care package.
— Manchester Metropolitan Uni (@ManMetUni) September 27, 2020
Prof Press also said there had been some “miscommunication” within the university over students being asked to remove posters.
“We’ve retracted that information, students are very free to put posters up and we obviously value freedom of speech, and it’s just regretful that there was a message sent out in error,” he said.
Meanwhile supermarket chain Morrisons has announced a “Serve our Students” food box delivery service to support those self-isolating in halls of residence.
Launching at Manchester Metropolitan University before expanding to other institutions, the service will allow students to order from a selection of boxes on Monday for delivery by early evening on Tuesday.