If you’ve not been living under a rock, you’ve likely heard something about Manchester and the student lockdowns they are enforcing.

If not, we’ll catch you up. When students returned to university at the end of September/start of October, Manchester’s COVID-19 cases sky-rocketed. By around the 5th October, 824 students and 18 members of staff had confirmed COVID.

The university released these figures in an attempt to remain completely ‘transparent’. At this point, 17 to 21 year olds accounted for 55% of the cities confirmed cases. In fact, at one accommodation site, Fallowfield, 1 in 20 students tested positive.

It looked like it was getting better by the end of October, though. As around the 27th, merely days before the 2nd national lockdown was announced, this 55% had dropped to 17%.

What’s happening now?

The University of Manchester
A graph to show student and staff confirmed COVID cases each day.               Source: The University of Manchester

Come November, those positive statistics have amounted to nothing. On the 5th November, the day that the national lockdown started, the University of Manchester put 6ft metal fences around Fallowfield accommodation. These were put around each block separately and also around the circumference of the site. Students weren’t allowed to enter the premises without ID, and they were not permitted to enter other non-accommodation buildings or other people’s accommodations.

The university claims this was done to ensure students followed the rules on household mixing, however, students claimed that it felt like they were being ‘locked in their rooms’. They felt like they weren’t being trusted. Especially because they were not forewarned about the erection of the fences until 3 pm on the 5th, despite the fact workers began to put them up that morning.

As a response, the students of Fallowfield have done two things.

One, en masse the students tore down the cage-like fencing and lit flairs in a protest against the unfair treatment from the university. They spoke with megaphones and had posters, all in true protest fashion.

Manchester students taking down fences
Source: Daily Mail, Joel Goodman

Secondly, around 15 students have occupied an empty building on campus, the Owen Parks Tower. They’ve barricaded themselves in with sofas, and have hung a strike banner out of the windows. The group are claiming that they will not budge until they’re granted a meeting with the university’s Vice Chancellor.

Owen Tower Hall occupation
Source: Manc Union

How has the university responded?

Following the upheaval, the university’s Vice Chancellor sent out an email to apologise for the ‘concern and distress’. There has been no update other than this since last week.

All of this comes following Finn Kitson’s death in October. The student’s death has been attributed to high anxiety due to the student lockdown. For anyone who is feeling isolated or lonely during the lockdown, please reach out.