The Truth About Coronavirus at Southampton

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CW: Reference to racism/xenophobia. 

Two nights ago, Student Life sent round an email to Mayflower Halls residents (below) informing them that, upon returning from China, a student had done ‘exactly the right thing’ after feeling unwell and referred themselves to the NHS, before later visiting Southampton General Hospital to be tested for coronavirus ‘as a precautionary measure’. 

Credit: Anonymous UoS Student

Although it had been alleged by student and regional news outlets throughout the day that ‘Mayflower Halls is on lockdown’, and that Southampton is experiencing ‘coronavirus scare’, the facts say different. The email tells us that the student’s flatmates were fully adhering to Public Health England’s guidance by agreeing to ‘self isolate until we receive further clarification from local health services’.  

Student Life have also reassured students that all communal areas in Mayflower Halls like the flat and associated life have been ‘deep cleaned’ in order to ‘reinforce the best practise that is already being followed’. 

The student in question has since been discharged from the hospital, but they will remain in precautionary self-isolation as per Public Health England’s guidelines.

The University have in turn back up Student Life’s assurances in a statement on the SUSSED website, which can be viewed in full below:

Yesterday (3 February 2020), one of our residents at Mayflower Halls returned from China and transferred directly from the airport to their flat without visiting campus. Having then felt unwell, they did exactly the right thing, self-isolated and referred themselves to the NHS. As a precautionary measure an ambulance was called to take them to Southampton General Hospital for tests. The individual has since been discharged by the NHS but in accordance with Public Health England’s official guidance will remain in self-isolation.

We have spoken to the student’s flatmates and, following the guidance from Public Health England, they have agreed to self-isolate until we receive further clarification from local health services. In addition, we have deep cleaned communal areas within the flat as well as associated lifts to help reinforce the best practice that is already being followed.

Our students’ welfare is our primary concern and our Residences and Student Life teams have been providing an enhanced service to be able to support any student concerns in the halls.

It has since been confirmed that the student in question has tested negative for coronavirus. Whilst they will continue to self-isolate whilst recovering from their flu-like symptoms, their housemates are now free to resume normal activities. The University have issued a full statement below:

We are pleased to report that one of our residents at Mayflower Halls has been tested negative for coronavirus.

The student was tested as a precaution after feeling unwell following a trip to China. The student will continue to self-isolate until fully recovered from flu-like symptoms.

The students’ flatmates, who were also asked to self-isolate, will now return to their normal activities. All students in Mayflower Halls have been notified directly of this update by the Residential Services and Student Life team.

Although the situation surrounding the Mayflower student has now been resolved, what does this tell us about the way in which media outlets are reporting on coronavirus? And how is this shaping student attitudes as a result?

Indeed, these news reports come after several students have expressed concerns about students submitting ‘lowkey racist’ Crushampton posts about the virus. Posts such as the one below have experienced backlash for showing ‘casual racism’ towards international students, with one commenter saying that these submissions ‘shouldn’t be posted’ because it ‘fuels the appetites of racists that agree’.

#Crushampton25838Anyone else is low-key freaking out while a Chinese student coughs in class?Especially considering the fact that half of them are wearing face masks 😭

Posted by Crushampton on Monday, 27 January 2020

The problem of xenophobia as a result of the coronavirus is allegedly impacting Chinese students here at the University. One University of Southampton student has reached out to Wessex Scene to explain the impact these attitudes to the coronavirus are having on her international peers at the University. They had this to say:

My friend told me she just stays at home for most of the time because of the virus and has stopped all activities with friends because she doesn’t want to cause a panic despite not having been back to China since July.

These allegations and hysteria around the coronavirus are evidently an issue at the University, with many questioning what action (if any) is being taken in order to combat racism and misinformation amongst the student body.

This had led to Union President Emily Harrison making a social media statement (below), wherein she notes that whilst student panic around the illness is ‘understandable’, associated ‘misinformation and judgements’ are not helpful for anyone.

It's very easy in the light of sudden and rapidly evolving health hazards, such as the Coronavirus, for there to be…

Posted by Emily Harrison SU on Monday, 3 February 2020

The post also includes a picture that differentiates between the ‘myths’ and  ‘facts’ surrounding coronavirus. One such ‘fact’ cited on the poster is that ‘the panic and hysteria that is happening is fuelled by racism and xenophobia, not evidence or practicality.’

As for the University, they have made a dedicated coronavirus webpage, which includes information about self-isolation, symptoms and a dedicated FAQ section for concerned students.

Concerned students should visit Public Health England’s website for the most up-to-date advice or call the NHS 111 helpline with any concerns.

If you have encountered any racism or xenophobia following the coronavirus outbreak, you can report it with SUSU’s Harassment Reporting Tool here. 

Wessex Scene will not tolerate xenophobia or racism of any kind and, as ever, are committed to reporting the truth to our readership.

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Wessex Scene Editor // meme queen // fan of chocolate digestives // @colombochar on Twitter.

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