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COVID-19 cases confirmed at SOAS student accommodation

By Jared Harris, BA Chinese and History

“…active transmission within the halls of residence is unlikely at this stage.”

As of 13 October, SOAS has officially confirmed nine positive cases of Covid-19 amongst its student population. SOAS students have begun self-isolating within their accommodation after several have tested positive for Covid-19 since the beginning of the academic year. In a general SOAS announcement sent out to its student population on the 13 October, SOAS stated ‘The local PHT have reviewed this situation today in the clinical team and are advising that active transmission within the halls of residence is unlikely at this stage.’ The email added that the PHT (public health teams) are in contact with the manager of the halls of residence. 

Those exposed to the virus or have tested positive for the virus have been contacted by their accommodation and ordered to self-isolate for 14 days. Those ordered to self-isolate received an email from student housing conglomerate Sanctuary Housing containing the following information: ‘We have just been informed that we have a student tested positive to COVID-19 in your flat. To reduce the risk of spreading we require the whole flat to self-isolate and to not get in touch with other residents. We are here to support you during those 14 days of self-isolation, and we will support you in any possible way with food groceries delivery and medicines.’

Sanctuary Housing has published information on their website regarding their approach to the pandemic and how they will ensure the wellbeing of their students during this time. Protocols listed on their website include ‘the deep cleaning of every room before a new tenant arrives’ and ‘two-meter markers at key areas across the properties where students might come into contact with other students or staff.’ Students in self-isolation have also been sent complementary cleaning materials, sanitary products and some food and drink to assist them during their period of isolation.

Sanctuary Housing also sent out an email to those who have tested positive or are self-isolating, offering two external laundry contractors ‘Love2Laundry’ and ‘Laundryheap’, who do door-to-door drop offs of washing for £14 per 6kg. Oscar Ward, SOAS Students Union accommodation officer, commented on the fact that he believes that SOAS has ‘a good degree of confidence in Sanctuary Housing in correctly handling the recent outbreak of cases within their halls of residency.’ Nevertheless, when asked about the issue regarding the external laundry companies being referred to students who have tested positive and with no mention of a cost subsidy, he said he was both ‘shocked and appalled.’ 

Joanne Hogan, residential operations manager & student housing advisor for SOAS, stated ‘students should now have the names of their hall manager and reception on site so they can ask for information to be sent if they can’t find it at any point. Halls will be sending their own communications to students regularly, and when any government guidance changes impact on the halls.’

A 24-hour student support hotline has also been established by SOAS, a scheme that will assist students who have tested positive for the virus or who have come into contact with someone who has. A weekly update will be published by SOAS with the latest numbers of cases or suspected cases amongst its student population and up-to-date advice from Public Health England. 

Photo Caption: A graphic sent out to students via email by Sanctuary Students. Credit: Sanctuary Students.

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