Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced the third English national lockdown, following in the footsteps of Scotland and probably Wales. However, this lockdown is much more strict than the one in November and will have a significant impact on Keele students; the middle of February will probably be the earliest at which it will end. The Prime Minister also returned the nation to the phrase and instruction: “Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, and Save Lives.” The change of messaging, which is much more stark than the November lockdown, shows that the government wants to emphasise the seriousness of the predicament the NHS and the health of the nation is currently facing. Keele students would be wise to follow the legal requirements set out by the government to protect themselves and others.
The lockdown will impact Keele students in a number of ways, from restricting returns to campus and student houses and the abandonment of in-person teaching. The official HM Government guidance on makes it clear that these rules will not apply to students who are studying subjects allied to medicine/health, dentistry, veterinary science, education (initial teacher training), social work, and courses which require Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body (PSRB) assessments or mandatory activity which is scheduled for January and which cannot be rescheduled (the university will notify you if this applies to you). It has been stated by the government that students who don’t fall into the courses and categories listed above should remain where they are if possible and begin their second semester of study online. It would also be advisable to check your university email inbox multiple times a day and look out for emails from the vice-chancellor and your tutors.
Many Keele students have voiced their displeasure at having to pay accommodation fees while not legally being allowed to return to campus. The fact that students have been given little guidance as to what the future holds, especially those in their assessed years of study, is grossly unfair.
Obviously, this announcement will be a great disappointment to many, myself included, who were looking forward to the resumption of more in-person practicals and seminars in the second semester. However, the new variant of COVID-19 unfortunately had other ideas. This is why it is vital that people are vaccinated as soon as possible, and hopefully this will guide the nation out of this terrible situation. According to current government targets, the top four priority groups must have at least one dose by the middle of February, which would mean vaccinating everyone over the age of 70, every elder in a care home (and their carers), all frontline health and social workers, and the clinically extremely vulnerable. As the vaccine takes around two weeks to provide protection, even if the target is met it still won’t be until the end of February when the four priority groups are protected.
The official HM Government National Lockdown Guidance can be found here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/949536/NationalLockdownGuidance.pdf.