Residents unable to go into each other’s homes, all hospitality venues shut by 6pm and alcohol only available from the supermarket – the harsh reality of Level 3 restrictions.
This is not the student life many had hoped for, yet students have been discouraged from returning home amidst fears that they may carry the virus into communities with more vulnerable populations and weaker healthcare infrastructure.
Factor in John Swinney’s warning that if the virus cannot be suitably contained then there is a “realistic possibility” that students may not be able to return home for Christmas and it is unsurprising to see that many students have chosen to continue their studies outwith the city.
The current guidance says that students can go home if they are ‘struggling’. It is obviously impossible to define ‘struggling’, so it is up to each person to determine whether they are coping with this new normal we find ourselves in.
Those who choose to return home may benefit from being able to spend time with family and to enjoy being under fewer restrictions. One student who chose to return to her hometown north of Glasgow, is Kiara, a first year. When asked why, she said, “mainly that the atmosphere was just awful”.
She said that she could not justify spending “day after day stuck within the same four walls and unable to socialise with anyone outwith [her] group of flatmates” especially given that she lives moderately nearby and in an area which is under significantly fewer restrictions.
When asked what might persuade her to return to the capital, she said that the return of face-to-face teaching would be a big factor, as this would mean that she could actually get to know the people on her course.
Jack is a third-year student from near Aberdeen. He initially chose to stay in Edinburgh when tighter restrictions were imposed, despite wanting to return home to an area under fewer restrictions and with better opportunities to continue his hobbies of camping and hiking.
He said, “going home would have spread the virus further than if I just stayed”. Jack was worried that immediately travelling home might undermine the new restrictions. Instead, he put himself into a voluntary quarantine for two weeks so he could ensure he was not a potential carrier and then left the city once his two weeks were up.
In this case, there is no correct answer as to whether it is better to remain or to leave. Each carries with it a number of risks both to yourself and to those around you. Moving in and out of areas at different levels is being strongly discouraged and the First Minister is reportedly considering a travel ban for different council areas.
What remains to be seen is whether this will be enough to drive the virus down and allow students to head home for Christmas or whether those of you still in Edinburgh should simply accept your fate and put your train fare towards fairy lights.
Image: Michel Curi via Wikimedia Commons