Reports this morning have suggested that students currently self-isolating at Manchester Metropolitan University will be allowed to return home.
Professor Malcom Press – Vice-Chancellor at Manchester Metropolitan University – apparently spoke with BBC Radio Manchester today, confirming that “students self-isolating are allowed home and parents can pick them up”.
It comes following widespread conversation, coverage and criticism after around 1,700 students were sent an email by the university last Friday telling them they must self-isolate in their accommodation for 14 days.
This was in a bid to help contain an outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) at the University.
It’s believed that 127 positive cases were confirmed in connection with both the Birley campus and Cambridge halls of residence.
Some students residing within the aforementioned accommodation however were reportedly caught by surprise at the announcement and apparently only found out about the need to self-isolate when they encountered security guards at the gates who told them they were not permitted to leave.
This then raised questions among members of the public and legal commentators online as to what authority MMU or Manchester City Council has to impose such measures.
Manchester Metropolitan University officials have previously stated that following the short-notice instruction to self-isolate for 14 days, they are “unable to prevent our students from leaving the halls”.
They did however urge students to “do the right thing”.
In the statement published on the Manchester Metropolitan University website on Sunday, Vice-Chancellor Professor Malcom Press said: “I recognise the impact that this situation is having on our students, particularly given the extremely short period of time we had to inform them of the decision.
“Many of them are away from home for the first time and still finding their feet. Their welfare is our top priority and that is why we have been working hard with organisations around the city since Friday evening to put in place support to help during this 14-day period.
“We are urgently preparing a care package which we hope will ensure students will have the essentials they require in halls, plus financial support to assist them through this challenging period.
“We expect students to follow the guidance for self-isolation set out by the Government and Public Health England and our staff are on hand 24 hours a day to provide support, guidance and deal with concerns.
“We are unable to prevent our students from leaving the halls, but our students are bright young adults and we trust that they will do the right thing.”
David Regan – Manchester’s Director of Public Health – has also previously confirmed to the MEN that the ‘lockdown’ at the Birley and Cambridge halls is currently optional.
He said: “We have currently not used any legal measures to enforce the additional requests,”
“We hope our students can understand the rationale for these actions and will support us in helping to contain infection and reduce further spread either amongst the students themselves or into the wider community. The rising weekly incidence rate and increase in the number of COVID hospital admissions at the Manchester Royal Infirmary reinforces why this is so important.”
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham also said that he is “keeping a close eye” on developments at MMU and has reportedly spoken to police to check “everything is in order”.
Superintendent Chris Hill of Greater Manchester Police’s Manchester city centre divison added that they “will continue to work with MMU and local authorities to engage with students and offer advice surrounding the re-opening of universities and staying safe in the current climate” and they understand that “this situation provides a number of challenges for all involved”.
It was also announced yesterday that Manchester Metropolitan University has moved all first and foundation year learning – including all lectures, seminars and classes / workshops – to online and virtual instruction only.
In the meantime, any students self-isolating will be permitted to return home to continue isolation with their families.
The Manc has contacted Manchester Metropolitan University for comment.