Last week, new measures came into effect which require all those arriving into Scotland from overseas to stay in managed hotel quarantine for 10 days, at the cost of £1,750 per person.
These tighter restrictions on international travel were implemented in an effort to stop the spread of new Covid-19 variants, and to “give vaccine deployment the best chance of bringing us closer to normality,” said Scotland’s Transport Secretary Michael Matheson.
Alexander Kanev, a second year Sound Design student at Edinburgh Napier University, went home to Bulgaria for Christmas and has not been able to come back since then.
He told The Student:
“I am not planning to go to Edinburgh at the moment just because of this hotel quarantine. It seems too expensive.
“My course is entirely online so it’s not that big of a deal for my studying, but for some of my projects I need equipment from the university. If I can’t go to Edinburgh, I need to look for an alternative way to get them done.”
There are many reasons why students might need to return to Edinburgh; for critical in-person teaching, work placements, access to facilities and equipment, or at the least to collect their belongings and move out of their term-time accommodation.
However, many of them might not be able to afford it now.
For this reason, some are planning to use what Scotland’s Transport Secretary Matheson called a “loophole that has been created by the UK Government” and avoid the hotel quarantine by entering Scotland through England or another part of the Common Travel Area.
Speaking to The Student, Jan Žižka, a second year Physics student at the University of Edinburgh, explained:
“[The £1,750 hotel quarantine charge] is undoubtedly something that is hard to afford. I do respect the Scottish government’s response to the pandemic, however, I cannot rule out the option of me first going to England, spending my quarantine time there, and then travelling to Edinburgh.”
Adéla Pafková, a second year Ecological and Environmental Sciences student, has a similar outlook:
“I am lucky enough to have friends in England who offered me to quarantine in their house, that way I won’t have to go to the hotels.
“There is just no way I could afford that, it’s what I pay for four months of rent.”
“I definitely think the price is just astounding and out of most students’ budgets. I understand that desperate situations call for desperate solutions, but I hope that this will have results and that students will be assisted in every way possible to cope financially.”
The National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland is calling for an exemption for students affected by the £1,750 hotel quarantine charge.
Commenting on the fee Matt Crilly, NUS Scotland President, said:
“International students already pay exorbitant tuition fees for their courses and sky-high costs for their accommodation, in addition to visa costs, and healthcare charges.
“I am concerned that without an exemption from the Scottish Government many students won’t be able to afford the cost of returning to Scotland to complete their studies, collect their belongings or return home.”
He made clear that the NUS fully supports “all public health measures required to tackle Covid-19 and the need to introduce stronger quarantine measures to control the virus,” while at the same time vouching for students who “simply cannot afford the £1,750 charge required to quarantine, especially following such a difficult year.”
The government plans to launch a ‘Managed Isolation Welfare Fund’ for those who cannot afford the charge, but so far no further details have been released about it.
The Student reached out to the University of Edinburgh to find out about any support that might be available to students who are returning from overseas.
A spokesperson for the University said that they are “responding as quickly as possible to the Scottish Government’s latest announcement” and will provide details on how they can best support students and staff as soon as they have them.
Image: Wikimedia Commons. Image shows the entrance of Edinburgh airport.