Student accommodation operators are drawing up emergency plans for full-building lockdowns after Covid-19 outbreaks at a swathe of UK universities forced thousands of students to self-isolate in their residences.
Earlier this week, 1,700 students were locked down at two Manchester residences after 127 Manchester Metropolitan University students tested positive for the virus. Edinburgh University residence Pollock Hall is reported to have placed 1,900 students into lockdown and around 500 students at iQ Student Accommodation’s Parker House in Dundee have also been locked down with 74 Covid-19 cases reported.
A spokesperson for iQ told Property Week it had additional staff on site to help with food and deliveries and that it was working closely with Abertay University and the authorities. “We understand how difficult a situation this is for all students at Parker House and are doing all we can to support them,” they added.
Student Roost chief executive Nathan Goddard told Property Week that in light of the lockdowns, it had drafted new protocols to support its student residents.
“Not unlike all operators across the sector, we’ve had students both who are isolating or in quarantine, either as individuals or whole flats,” he said. “Those residents are contacted by our local teams to ensure deliveries are taken to the door and to enquire about overall wellbeing.”
In the event of a whole building lockdown being required, Goddard said it would act “swiftly” and dispatch a team to look after the residents. “There is of course a major logistics exercise to be undertaken, but our focus remains on ensuring we can dispatch that support squad within a few hours of a whole-building lockdown.”
Similar action has been taken by operator Fusion Students. “We had plans if we had 40 or 50 cases in a building, but not a full lockdown,” said co-founder Nigel Henry.
”Our normal delivery processes couldn’t happen in that scenario, so we would have to bring in extra staff. But we are living in such an unknown world now that we have got to be prepared for absolutely everything.”
Merelina Sykes, joint head of student property at Knight Frank, said: “The main response from our operators has been that the welfare of their students is their absolute priority.”