Nationally, students must decide whether to remain in their student homes for lockdown, or risk returning to their hometown.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement on the 31st October of a second, month-long ‘national lockdown’ was met with dismay by many students in the United Kingdom.
Now, faced with the prospect of isolating for the entirety of November in their student home, many are opting to flout the new rules and return to their parent or guardians home for the duration of the lockdown.
Rishida Singh, a third year student at the University of Newcastle is one of the many that have already returned home, staying until “at least after Christmas”.
He said “my reasoning wasn’t so much mental health oriented, I live in a house with mates so wouldn’t have even minded staying. I’m just that classic poor student and know if I go home now I’ll save money”
Rishida’s logic is shared by many, however many of his peers who have taken similar actions have done for very different reasons. He added “I think students should be able to choose to be honest, I know lots of people are going to struggle with their mental health in isolation for a month”.
First year student Ria Cook, a ‘fresher’ at Leeds Beckett University confessed her own misgivings about the second lockdown, saying “its really scary for people, like me, stuck in student accommodation.”
Ria stays in a student halls based in Leeds and, due to her flatmates testing positive, has been forced to remain there for lockdown – against her wishes.
She said “its definitely taken a toll on my mental health, I’ve already been isolating since October 23rd and I was looking forward to being able to socialise again and see my family, now I won’t be able to do that”.
This sentiment has been shared by NUS president Larissa Kennedy who said “from online learning to long periods of self-isolation, often from shoebox rooms, students’ experiences this term have been far from what they were led to expect.
“Many have recently gone through accommodation lockdowns and the mental health implications of making students stay longer than they want or need to cannot be underestimated.”
Tanya Kelsey, a Leeds Beckett student who has returned to her hometown of Leicester for the lockdown cited financial reasons for her decision to leave Leeds, saying “it’ll work out a lot cheaper for me there”.
Tanya, who was made redundant from her part time job in September, voiced her disdain with the handling of the lockdown and prior governmental strategy towards the pandemic, as well as the lack of focus on the mental health implications.
She said “the restrictions of COVID only heighten other issues, and it is possible that due to restrictions, somebody who is having mental health problems will not be able to get help for these problems in the way they normally would”.
Sarah, a nurse on Hull Royal Infirmary’s mental health ward, stressed the importance of students “putting their mental health first, within reason”. She added that “if they feel trapped in their accommodation and they have the opportunity to go home, they should”.
Similarly to Tanya, she too was a critic of the government and the PM’s handling of the pandemic, saying “they (the government) have not considered the effects that not socialising for a month, or longer on people’s mental state”.
It is evident that most people asked, believe students should be allowed to return home, however the question still remains: is it ethical to allow students to freely travel to benefit themselves and their family mentally, if it could pose a risk physically?