The Boar News investigated the University of Warwick students’ experience regarding quarantines and self-isolations during the academic year 2020-21.
During the academic year 2020-21, British universities took various measures to combat the pandemic due to rising Covid-19 cases, including but not limited to: self-isolation, hotel quarantines, and flat isolations. The Boar contacted Warwick students who were asked to quarantine after testing positive for Covid-19 and/or being in contact with someone who did.
I felt like the University forgot about those that were left in the flat, like myself, to self-isolate
– Warwick Student
If a student tested positive for Covid-19, their whole flat was put into isolation. Having experienced two “flat-isolations” last year, a second-year Mathematics student said to The Boar about his experience: “My flatmate suspected she had Covid and went to an onsite PCR testing facility run by the University. Whilst waiting for the results, a sign appeared on our flat door stating that the flat was in isolation and that no one was to leave or enter the flat. We didn’t receive a formal acknowledgement of our isolation telling us why we were isolating and what we should do whilst isolating.”
On the topic of accessing food and other necessities, he stated: “The University, despite saying [otherwise] on their website, didn’t provide the flat with any food/medicine. As a result, we were forced to send a single flatmate out to do all our grocery shopping, and those with prescriptions for necessary medicines also had to leave to collect them.
“We finally received an email detailing why we were in isolation, and how we can get food and medicines delivered to us through the University a week after our isolation ended.”
“Overall, I felt like the University forgot about those that were left in the flat, like myself, to self-isolate. Those who tested positive were moved to a facility where they were provided with meals and any medicines required, whilst those left in the flat received nothing other than a mysterious sign telling us we couldn’t leave and no [other] support.”
The second time his flat was put into isolation was at the end of Term 3, when Covid-19 cases around the nation peaked. As a result of testing positive, the student could not move back at the end of term as it would put his parents at risk. Despite the official isolation period ending on 5 July 2021, his key card for his accommodation was disabled before the date:
“Unfortunately I tested positive. Everyone left, so I was in a flat by myself with no one to get food and the University disabled my key card as it was after the moving out date so I couldn’t get into the kitchen.”
Most students who tested positive for Covid-19 and/or were travelling from abroad were moved to quarantine in hotels on campus. One second-year International Management student quarantined in Arden, one of Warwick’s hotels. She said to The Boar that initially, she “found the University to be impeccably organised.
“I received very clear instructions regarding the testing services and the quarantine facilities when my test resulted positive.”
There was no medical professional on-site and no option for us to get medication delivered
– Warwick Student
However, regarding her hotel quarantine period, she stated: “Once I reached the quarantine hotel, my opinion of the University’s organisation changed. We had no one to contact for any needs or in case of emergency.”
“My parents were extremely worried about my health, bearing in mind I had turned 18 just a few days earlier, and had been at the University for under a week. They wanted me to get a hold of medication to treat the high fever I had, however, there was no option for me to do so.”
“There was no medical professional on-site and no option for us to get medication delivered. I tried calling every number I could think of, from the Health Centre to security and even my warden, but nobody seemed available or responsible for the job.”
Another student, who also isolated in Arden, talked about the issue of accessing medication and medical support: “We experienced serious problems with the access to medicines, as we were not allowed to go out, and all delivery slots of supermarkets were booked in advance for a week.
“I started developing severe symptoms such as problems with [my] breathing. It was shocking to me that nobody has been actually checking on us in order to make sure that everything is okay.”
“I seriously needed some medication in order to weaken the symptoms, and thanks to the arrival of a package from my parents in Poland, I was able to access some necessary drugs. However, it took me two days to find any service on campus willing to deliver the package from the Post Room.”
Moreover, the students who were self-isolating in Arden said another student in the hotel sent an email to the University on behalf of everyone quarantining there. The email, which was shared in the group chat for students isolating in Arden, asked whether students could go outside for a few minutes to get fresh air.
I was provided with free meals, and I was assigned a good quality room with my own bathroom
However, the experience of another international student quarantining in one of the University’s hotels differed from previous accounts.
“I have heard many bad opinions about self-isolation and badly-coordinated operations from the University side. Personally, I think that all the necessities were provided to infected students, and I felt comfortable in the conditions I was placed in by the University.”
“Despite the fact that being separated from others for 10 days was a bit miserable, I was provided with free meals, and I was assigned a good quality room with my own bathroom.
“Taking into account the number of students infected at the same time on campus, the University, in my opinion, managed well with the situation, and provided students with the required care.”
Asked about how the University could have improved its handling of Covid-19 during the academic year 2020-21, one of the interviewed students answered:
“Looking back, I wish the University had assigned people to ensure the wellbeing of quarantined students.
“I think there was a clear lack of support for our physical and mental health. In a time where face-to-face interactions were prohibited, the University should have given us a list with all the numbers to call in case [we needed to].
The University took significant steps to support those required to self-isolate by direct support
– University of Warwick
“In addition, it should have ensured there were sufficient lines [of communication] for such contacts, since the numbers we did have were often only reachable by email due to remote working, or [they were] flooded with calls and therefore had a very long waiting time.”
In a comment made to The Boar, the University of Warwick said:
“The University took significant steps to support those required to self-isolate by direct support, providing detailed information on the support available to them via MyWarwick and by email, and establishing a support line that those self-isolating could contact for further guidance and help. This support included delivering key items, including medication, and an emergency laundry service to those self-isolating on campus, plus an array of digital engagement events through Warwick Presents.
“The University’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic was recognised positively in student feedback both through the National Student Survey, which found that Overall Satisfaction amongst students is 83.2% – one of the highest in the UK, and the Sunday Times’ Good University Guide’s citation when naming Warwick runner-up University of the Year.”