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University self-isolation: PPE to pee and running out of food

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Hundreds of students have been asked to self-isolate in their halls of residence following Covid outbreaks at several Scottish universities.

They include 600 at the University of Glasgow and another 500 at Abertay University in Dundee. So what's it like to self-isolate in a student flat?

'I'm slowly running out of food'

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One student, who is self isolating because of positive cases in her student household, told the BBC she has had to adapt quickly.

She said: "Being asked to isolate in uni halls isn't the best. It's not like in your own house where you might have a garden and your own bathroom and a separate room to work in and sleep in.

"Most of the time is spent in my bedroom. It's nice but it can get me down a bit. I get out of bed, take two steps to my desk and that's what I do for most of the day.

"We share our bathrooms - there are five showers for eight of us which is plenty but we have designated two for the people who have tested positive so we have tried to contain the virus within our household."

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She also said the students needed practical help.

"I am slowly running out of food. I've only been here a week and haven't done a big food shop. I have been using up the few things I brought with me. It's another stressor to deal with."

She said students from her accommodation had socialised in other halls before the outbreak and had been "mingling outside their household".

She added the threat from the university accommodation bosses that anyone breaking rules may be evicted was worrying.

She said: "Threats to kick people out are quite harsh. We took a decision as a group to be more responsible because we knew we didn't have somewhere to go if we got kicked out. It might make students think twice."

'Fresher's Week was good - too good'

image copyrightRobbie Low
image captionRobbie Low says social distancing is difficult in a tiny flat shared with nine others

First year law student Robbie Low is staying in the University of Glasgow's Murano Street halls of residence, the epicentre of one of the main outbreaks.

The 18-year-old, from Edinburgh, is sharing a flat with nine others

Two girls in his flat have tested positive. Some others have had symptoms and are waiting for test results.

He said: "Freshers Week was good - maybe too good now we see the consequences of that.

"I arrived on the 14th (of September), and that Monday was the last day people were properly mixing, then it died down after that and there was a police presence."

He said a mobile testing unit had been set up outside the Murano halls but that some students, against regulations, had gone home.

He said: "Some people in my block have been extracted by their parents and are self-isolating at home now. But I wouldn't do that.

"I don't want to expose my parents to the virus. We came here knowing this was a likely scenario and we have all just made sure we don't see vulnerable members of our family."

Robbie says staying apart in his small flat is hard.

"The kitchen is small - the same size as for a five-person flat, so it's hard to socially distance in the flat."

'They need PPE to go for a pee'

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image captionMurano Street Student Village is the largest residence at University of Glasgow

Concerned mum Amanda from Argyll is in regular contact with her 18-year-old daughter who is living in a five-person student flat within the Murano halls.

She told BBC Radio Scotland's Mornings with Kaye Adams: "I believe the architect of the Murano halls was famed for prison designs. And it has been a tough and lonely situation.

"My daughter was the first in her flat to test positive and there was a bit of a social stigma to that."

In her flat, Amanda's daughter shares a bathroom and a kitchen with four others, which makes self-isolating difficult.

Amanda said: "She has to get into PPE to go for a pee. Then she has to disinfect everything - the flusher, the taps, the sink, the door handle before she can go back to her tiny room. It's the last thing you want to do when you are feeling rubbish.

"She can't access the kitchen at the same time as any of the others so she goes in there alone to cook in PPE and again has to disinfect everything - the taps, the surfaces, the cooker, knives if she has used them.

"She ran out of fresh fruit and veg early and is now on to the stock of dried food we sent her to Glasgow with."

Amanda also said that laundry was an issue because "not much" was done in the first two weeks at university.

Three of the five freshers in her flat have tested positive for the virus now and the other two are awaiting results, but they are all self-isolating.

Where are there cases?

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The Covid clusters in Glasgow are centred on two halls of residence, the Murano Street Village and Cairncross residences, with 172 students testing positive so far.

The university said the actual number of infected students was "likely to be higher" and blamed social activity at the start of freshers' week, from 12 to 14 September.

It said the affected students had access to food and other supplies, and that advice on medical issues - including mental health and wellbeing - was also being made available.

Elsewhere in Scotland, all 500 residents at Parker House in Dundee have been asked to self-isolate until contact tracing is complete after three confirmed coronavirus cases.

In Aberdeen, 72 residents at Hillhead student village are self isolating after students tested positive.

Aberdeen University has urged anyone who has attended parties or other gatherings since Friday to come forward to aid contact tracing efforts - and promised they will not be punished for breaching guidance if they do.

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  • Covid in Scotland: 172 test positive in Glasgow University outbreak