EDINBURGH – The UK has been severely criticized for its liberal policies regarding the coronavirus pandemic.
It seems that the situation began to be taken seriously on Friday, March 13th, when the government recommended that individuals displaying symptoms of covid-19 should self-isolate for seven days.
The University of Edinburgh, along with many other colleges and universities, announced on Friday that teaching would be switched from in-person to remote. They also cancelled exams for year 1 and 2 students. Upper years students will be taking them online.
The situation has distressed many university students, as many come from long distances to study in the UK.
A number of students I know took a rapid decision to leave the UK and take the remaining possible flights home, to be with their families and unavoidably spend a significant amount of time in quarantine.
Others are impacted by the looming difficulty of paying rent, as some are called off work or forced to self-isolate, for example, those with asthma.
In the Edinburgh Student Housing Cooperative, home to about 100 university students, people are organizing to help those in need and prevent the possible spread of the virus.
Students are working tirelessly to keep up with health organization recommendations, and maintain the highest flat and communal area cleanliness standards. We do it all while working on our end of year assessments – the expectations about work quality seem to remain the same.
Cancelling in-person classes and switching to the remote mode of delivery is the only rational decision in the light of the situation.
However, to many students this brought further disappointment as teaching in the last few weeks was already impacted by industrial strikes. Members of UCU (University and College Union), which included lecturers and PhD students, were striking for three full weeks. As a result, thousands of students had their classes cancelled and they could not contact their teachers about university matters.
Given that international and non-Scottish students from the UK pay exceedingly high tuition fees, it is completely justified to worry and also be upset at the inability to actually go to class for a large part of the academic year.
These professional and study-related concerns will need to be postponed, though, until the coronavirus situation is more under control.
It could have been that people initially worried about overreacting to coronavirus, and that’s why the majority carried on as if everything was normal.
It is now certain that with the population size and mobility that we have now as a global community, action upon global health risks must be taken rapidly and seriously.
The issues we face and our response to them are a reflection of us as a society. Let’s have hope that selfishness and recklessness does not overtake reason and empathy.
Joanna Koter is a Correspondent with Youth Journalism International.