Catching Covid-19: getting over troubled water

November 4, 2020

Collage by Luke Blake with images from Kevin Craft from Pixabay

When times get rough: Luke Blake describes student-life during pandemic

As we’re all painfully aware, a second nationwide lockdown will be put in place tomorrow (5th November 2020). Just a week before the first lockdown back in late March, I was at university in Manchester, and pretty much in the dark about what was to happen next.

I returned home to London and the next six months or so were uncertain, challenging and interesting times, to say the least. I found lockdown particularly boring at the start, but it got better. I learned how to cook a proper curry with instructions from a friend at uni. I followed the Black Lives Matter campaign with a passion. I interviewed a black film publicist, over zoom, about the protests in the United States, which you can read here.

Once I knew I’d be free to go back up to Manchester in September, I felt relieved, and I was excited to move into my new accommodation and return to some sort of normality. However, swiftly after my arrival the rule of six was introduced which had significant impacts. For example, it would now not be possible for my entire house to sit at the same table; there are eight of us!

As nightclubs were closed, pubs were now the place to be at all times, with exceptionally long queues at many of Fallowfield’s (a vibrant Manchester suburb) hotspots. As much as I understand how the rule of six helps prevent the spread of the virus, the knock-on effect was always going to be that students would then congregate in flats or houses. Many students hadn’t seen each other for over six months and seriously needed to connect and catch up.

Towards the end of September, one day, quite suddenly, I developed a dry cough alongside a couple of other mates that I lived with

Students descending on Manchester from across the country has led to the inevitable spread of coronavirus, making south Manchester one of the worst places for Covid-19 in the country.

Slowly but surely the virus weaved its way among people I knew, which led to a strange and stressful period where nobody was sure whether to get tested, whether to isolate or whether they had it but without symptoms.

Towards the end of September, one day, quite suddenly, I developed a dry cough alongside a couple of other housemates. We managed to book a test for the following morning. Once the tests came back positive, ten long days stretched ahead of us.

We were unable to leave the house. It was tough, and one day rolled into the next. Those ten days coincided with my birthday, which made it more difficult and disappointing, not being able to see friends, let alone go out and celebrate!

Having coronavirus was hard for everyone in my house, while the majority of young people I know had very mild or no symptoms at all, there were a few who had it quite badly.

I felt very lethargic for about four days and struggled to leave my bed. Losing taste and smell followed the exhaustion; we all had this symptom, which made cooking and eating an odd and flavourless experience. Even the strongest spices were indistinguishable.

All pubs are now closed, apart from takeaway, which means most of the best student hangouts are now shut

Not being able to leave the house for nearly two weeks was challenging for everyone, especially with all our university contact hours online and restrictions only tightening further. Once our isolation period was over, there were still limits to what we were allowed to do.

Now the whole of England is entering a new lockdown, meaning that all pubs and food outlets will now be closed, apart from takeaway, which means most of the best student hangouts are shutting. The sight of dim pubs, clubs, and bars only adds to the wet, wintery gloom surrounding high streets in the north, and the overwhelming view of students is that the university experience is really not worth the money at the moment.

Looking forward, there seems to be as much uncertainty as ever. Recent reports have suggested students could be told to stay in their university accommodation over the Christmas break, to ensure the infection does not spread to their older relatives.

A horrendous thought for many of us, with over 36% of young people for a new Prince’s Trust survey saying they have “lost hope” for the future. Being cooped up over the holidays would certainly worsen stress and mental health issues for many students, increasing the growing feeling of isolation and lack of freedom.

But I guess we have to help each other cross that bridge when we come to it!

Luke is studying for a degree in History and Economics at Manchester University.

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