Students who became infected with coronavirus after starting university say an outbreak in their accommodation was ‘inevitable’.
It comes as an expert has warned the UK government could be forced to tell university students to remain on campuses during the Christmas break,
Authorities are worried about the risk of spreading Covid-19 into students’ local communities when they return home.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has not ruled out the possibility that university students would have to stay away from home over Christmas if major outbreaks continue on campuses.
Outbreaks in university accommodation in Scotland have prompted First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s government to take emergency action.
Students in Scotland are quarantining in their dormitories and being told not to go to the pubs this weekend, following outbreaks affecting hundreds of students.
One student said she has now been isolating for nearly a month, having been placed in an initial 14-day quarantine on arrival from California.
The teenager and three other people in her eight-person flat in Glasgow University’s Murano Street Student Village have now tested positive for Covid-19.
The complex is the university’s largest halls of residence and can house 1,175 students
The 18-year-old, who is studying international relations and sociology, said she is having to wash her clothes in the sink as the laundry is outside the flat.
The residents of the flat had already been isolating for five days when she received her positive test result on Friday morning.
She said: “With this many kids in this small an area, it was bound to happen.
“We have it, so the negative people are cooking. They will drop off food outside our doors.
“It’s really hard not to mix, our kitchen is small and we have to share a bathroom. We’ve been wearing masks.”
She said she has been getting support from her family and new flatmates.
“I’ve been watching a lot of movies and just trying to focus on other things,” she added.
One flatmate, 19, from London, who also tested positive on Friday morning, said he arrived late to the flat and it had already been placed in isolation.
He said: “It’s freshers’ week – it just happens. You couldn’t stop it if you tried.
“I was washing my hands everywhere I went.
“I’m sort of glad I’ve got it so it’s out the way.”
The flatmates had already booked a test at Glasgow Caledonian University in another part of the city before they discovered a mobile testing unit had been set up at Murano Street.
Another student in separate accommodation at the complex said there had been some positive cases in her 12-person flat, but she had tested negative.
The 19-year-old from London, who is studying medicine, said: “The uni put in place all the precautions they could, but things happen.
“As much as it’s horrible to have to be isolating already, we’re still getting to know each other so it’s not as bad as it could be.”
Earlier this month, government science advisory group SAGE warned Covid-19 would likely spread among students like ‘fresher’s flu.’
SAGE warned the period before Christmas posed the biggest risk for outbreaks, as infected students could then carry the virus unknowingly back to their home communities during the break.
In a report, experts warned outbreaks would prompt sweeping lockdowns of halls and flats – interrupting study and threatening students’ mental health.
The report said the style of accommodation students lived in made outbreaks likely, and could lead to entire flats having to be repeatedly quarantined.
The scientists recommending ‘segmenting’ student and staff to make mass quarantining amid outbreaks easier – separating into course, year group, accommodation, or even into flats.
Sir Mark Walport, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), warned this week that students may need to prepare to stay in their accommodation over Christmas, to avoid spreading the virus back to their home communities.
And Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Unit and former government special adviser to the universities minister, told the i newspaper: “If you are following the science then what else can the Government say?
“The worry will be if they do go home that they will bring the virus back to their parents and families. It is just another on the long list of sacrifices people will have to make to battle this disease.”