Students at Exeter University have spoken out about having to comply with what feels like a ‘targeted lockdown’ on students.
For the next fortnight, university students living within the city are being asked not to meet indoors with anyone not part of their households.
The new rules are due to more than half of coronavirus cases confirmed in the previous week across Devon being attributable to the university – mainly from students unwittingly arriving having already been infected elsewhere in the country and passing it onto the housemates.
Exeter University has 25,000 students, and it has been confirmed the number of students isolating on campus and halls residence are around 100 on the Exeter campuses.
Commenting on the new rules, one female student told the BBC: “It does just kind of feel like a local lockdown on students. I can understand it, but in a way it is unfair.”
Another said: “It is annoying that it is just us that can’t continue with what the law is.”
A third added: “They are targeting us, but there is nothing we can do about it.”
Exeter University students have been hitting the headlines over the last few weeks with pictures being shared of mass gatherings on campus.
It prompted first year student Keron Day, who has cerebral palsy, to return home in Cornwall because he is unwilling to take the risk of being in halls of residence.
He told the BBC: “I did not feel that the good rules the university has put in place were necessarily being followed in the way that they should be which is why I took the decision.
“There was too much mixing of households, despite the university’s best efforts.”
For people living near the campus, the restrictions have not come as a surprise.
Jonathan Kirby of Powderham Crescent Residents’ Association, said: “My reaction to this is, I told you so. No one should be surprised with all these students coming back that there would be contact and spread of coronavirus.
“It was just absolutely bound to happen and you don’t have to be an expert or a super forecaster, data analyst or anything. We could see it coming and it’s here.”
There has been no evidence of wider community transmission in Exeter. For the period between September 18 and 24, 50 cases have been confirmed from people living within the Pennsylvania and University MSOA, or people studying at the University but living elsewhere within Exeter, with a cluster of 3 in St Leonards and 7 in St James’s Park & Hoopern.
For the next 14 days, beginning from Monday, September 28, students who live in Exeter are being asked to not to meet indoors with anyone who is not part of their household.
The only exceptions to this are for study, work, organised sport, or in an emergency situation where people are in danger.
Exeter University has confirmed all students have signed up its Covid safety charter.
Tim Quine, deputy vice chancellor of Exeter University said: “I think the message is getting out there, but I think students are not alone in this. It is really important to recognise that as a society we have got to work out how we are going to respond and how we are going to make sure we look after each other to keep each other safe.”
He continued: “The wider community should take great reassurance from the testing and tracing program because what’s really fundamental about that is we can turn around tests within 24 hours so we are able to identify positive cases rapidly and make sure they make appropriate responses and self-isolate.
“The emphasis is on looking to our students to act responsibly and make some sacrifices to keep each other safe and the wider community.”