MANCHESTER Metropolitan University students have said they are "scared and confused" after their accommodation was locked down without warning.
Around 1,700 students were told to stay in their rooms for 14 days after 127 tested positive for coronavirus.
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But students at the Birley campus described confusion as security staff arrived to enforce the lockdown on Friday, before many of them had received any official communication from the university to tell them what was happening.
Some compared conditions to a prison as they were barred from leaving.
Signs in the windows read "Help us!" and another renamed the institution "HMP MMU".
Another said: "Mental health comes first – let us out."
Dominic Waddell, a first-year filmmaking student, said: "A few people got an email to announce they were locking down my accommodation, but not everyone got that so there was a big freak-out with everyone.
"There was a security guard that then just arrived at the gate of our accommodation and he wasn't letting anybody leave, not really explaining what was going on."
'PEOPLE ARE ANGRY'
Megan Tingey, a 19-year-old criminology student, said police also turned up outside her Birley Vine accommodation.
"It was quite scary and confusing," she said.
"A police van turned up and there were police outside the gate, quite a lot of them just walking around looking at everyone, especially because we didn't know what was going on.
"No one's really told us much and then the police turn up as well with security outside – it's a really, really difficult situation.”
Ms Tingey said that by Saturday afternoon she still had not received an email from the university, though most of her friends had.
For those in her flat, she said, it was particularly tough as they were only just emerging from isolation having themselves tested positive for the virus around 10 days ago.
"I think petty much everyone in our accommodation finished their self isolation around yesterday, so I think doing a lockdown of the building now is quite bad considering we've all just come out of it," Ms Tingey said.
Ms Tingey said she briefly had a mild cough but that none of her flatmates were now showing any symptoms.
Many students were left wondering how they would stock their shelves as they were not allowed to go out to buy food.
There's a lot of confusion, frustration, worry that you're not going to be able to get food – I think that's the main worry.
Mr Waddell, 21, said: "They're saying 'the safety and wellbeing of our students and staff and the local community is our top priority' but it doesn't really seem like that if they haven't allowed us time to prepare for this.
"Even if they'd just given us 12 hours notice that would have been something.”
Mr Waddell now faces spending the next two weeks with the 11 other people in his house, who he only met for the first time two weeks ago.
He said the situation had been "pretty poorly handled" and that his fellow residents in Birley Naylor were not happy.
"There's a lot of confusion still," he said. "Lots of people are very angry.
"People are jokingly saying we'll rush the gates and stuff.
"There's a lot of confusion, frustration, worry that you're not going to be able to get food – I think that's the main worry.”
Ms Tingey said she believes there "should be some form of refund for students" while Mr Waddell said he hoped the university will step in to help out those who are struggling.
He said: "Given the amount of money we're giving them…they can use that money to put in some provisions for food care packages and things like that, I think that's something that would help a lot of students.”
University officials have begged rowdy students to attend virtual freshers' events and avoid big parties in a bid to prevent infections spiralling.
Public Health England and Manchester City Council said in a joint statement that a "local lockdown" would be imposed on the two halls after a "spike" was detected in accommodation blocks.
It read: "The evidence so far suggests that transmission has been within the student community."
The outbreak occurred just a week after a party with over 100 students was reported in the courtyard of Birley Campus, according to Manchester Evening News.
Case numbers on campus soared following the rave – with a number of students in the halls reporting symptoms of the bug.
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