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Student fury as UK plunged into lockdown

Students at UK universities have shared pictures of out of date food they have been receiving inside the “world’s most expensive prison” as parts of the country are plunged back into a second lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19. On Monday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled a new three-tier system for the country…

Students at UK universities have shared pictures of out of date food they have been receiving inside the “world’s most expensive prison” as parts of the country are plunged back into a second lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19.

On Monday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled a new three-tier system for the country with areas designated medium, high or very high risk.

Most areas are set to medium meaning current restrictions continue, including the 10pm hospitality curfew and “rule of six” for meetings.

However areas under local restrictions already will become designated “very high” and the northwestern city of Liverpool will come under the toughest phase of restrictions that will see pubs, gyms and bars shut with all but essential travel restricted. Retail shops, schools and universities will remain open.

Mr Johnson said the “bleak mathematics” of rising case numbers had made further measures essential.

“We must act to save lives,” he told the UK House of Commons about the plans that will come into effect on Wednesday after a vote on Tuesday.

“I believe not to act would be unforgivable so I hope that rapid progress can be made.”

Mr Johnson said he did not want to revert to a full national style lockdown like the country experienced in March but could not “let the virus rip”.

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Mr Johnson’s government had been determined for students to return to classes following the initial lockdown that saw many miss up to six months off school. However an influx to university towns has seen cases spike with young people in particular driving a rise in the numbers.

So far more than 40 universities have recorded cases with students forced into quarantine in flats and halls of residence, relying on food packages and visits from parents at what was supposed to be a time of hedonistic freedom.

University of Edinburgh student Tess Bailee, 18, created an Instagram account called Pollock Prisoner after her halls of residence, which she dubbed the “world’s most expensive prison”.

She has paid more than A$12,700 (GBP7050) to live in dormitory style accommodation with 18 other people this year.

While her specific unit has not been subject to quarantine yet, she told all of her friends had, in an atmosphere thick with “tension”.

She has shared pictures of students receiving out of date food, cupboards infested with mice and people with nut allergies being delivered almond muesli bars.

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Ms Bailee said she was “naturally apprehensive” about starting university in the middle of the pandemic but “didn’t realise how bad it would be.”

She said the whole atmosphere on campus is subject to “extreme policing” with “intense punishments” for breaking the rules and a “tension here which I wasn’t really expecting.”

“We’re being treated a bit like naughty boarding schools kids and a bit like prisoners. Sometimes we’re treated like kids and sometimes were’re treated like adults.”

She also questioned how much profit the university was making from the students, saying rather than receiving hot meals and hybrid teaching they were being subject to a “slow burn” of the virus which could see them yo yo in and out of isolation all year.

“We’re being used as walking bank accounts. The only reason they bought us here was to take our money. Maybe it was to test herd immunity. I’m dead sure that they have bought us here solely for the purpose of taking our money. Everything about being here shows they didn’t even try to prepare,” she said.

The University of Edinburgh has been contacted for comment. It has previously said it is working quickly to improve its systems and “ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our students continues to be our absolute priority.”

“We have teams of staff working 24 hours a day to provide those who are self-isolating in our catered and self-catered residences with three meals a day – including ready-to-heat meals – in line with their dietary requirements and preferences. Essential items are also being delivered on request,” the university told the BBC.


Speaking on Monday morning local time, medical director of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) Professor Stephen Powis, said emergency Nightingale hospitals in northern England would get ready to take patients over the next few weeks.

England’s deputy medical director Jonathan Van Tam also warned the country is now in a similar place to what it was in March with a rise in hospital admissions and deaths “baked in” to statistics given the rising levels of positive cases.

Health authorities have issued clear warnings in recent weeks the UK is on track for a significant second wave amid autumn weather that forces activities indoors, along with the return of schools and universities.

The UK government has suffered criticism over lockdown rules being vague and hard to follow. Last week pubs and restaurants were ordered to close at 10pm however pictures and video on social media simply showed people partying in the streets.

Ahead of Monday’s announcement, a Downing Street spokesman described the country as being at a “critical juncture and it is absolutely vital that everyone follows the clear guidance we have set out to help contain the virus.”

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak said he would reintroduce the successful furlough scheme for parts of the country where businesses are forced to close over the coming winter months. Overall, Britian’s death toll from COVID-19 has topped 42,000 making it the highest in Europe.

Cases have been rising by around 10,000 a day in recent days, however Professor Van Tam has said this cannot be compared with the situation in March in which limited testing capacity meant virus tests were largely administered to those in hospital with the disease.

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Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus.