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International students flee UK as home countries lockdown

Saudi Arabian residents studying in the UK have been forced to make the difficult choice of either remaining in the country or returning home, after Saudi Arabia gives 72 hour warning for lockdown in response to increasing cases of coronavirus.

Aya-zoe Atallah, a final year undergraduate student at the University of Manchester, has made the decision to return home before all international travel to and from the country is suspended:

She told The Mancunion that she felt she had little choice in the matter but is worried about the impact this will have on her degree: “I couldn’t risk being stuck away from home, but I’m stressing about how this will affect my studies more than anything else. As a final year student I’ll have no access to the libraries or contact hours with lecturers, so on top of all the strikes I’ll have zero support for my upcoming deadlines and dissertation.

“I’ve been told by student support to apply for mitigating circumstances so hopefully that helps, but how much can they do without knowing the future of the virus? The uncertainty about the whole situation is what scares me the most. What happens with my education is all up in the air at the moment.”

On Thursday March 12th, the Saudi Press Agency released information from the Ministry of Interior about the country’s precautionary measures, stating that, “the kingdom’s government has decided to temporarily suspend the travel of citizens and expatriates and suspend flights.”

People have been given 72 hours to either exit the country or return, before the country goes into temporary lockdown. This follows the decision of the Italian government on March 10th to restrict international travel to and from the country, allowing only those who can provide medical certification that they do not have coronavirus to cross the border.

Claudia, a Bio-Chemistry student at UoM, who lives in Spain, expressed fears about being stranded in the UK without her family. She told The Mancunion that she rebooked her flight home for Easter break to tomorrow because she “didn’t want to get sick and have nobody around me, since my other friends are also going home and my family lives abroad.”

Claudia was ” pleasantly surprised” by how understanding the University was about her wish to leave the UK: “I set up a meeting with my project advisor and he told me that this takes priority and said that I wouldn’t be penalised for this.

“The university understands that they aren’t able to provide definitive answers yet, but they also mentioned that we had to be cautious about being able to fly back on time.”

The impact of coronavirus on those studying at UK universities continues to grow as not only are many students studying abroad and within the UK being forced to make decisions regarding returning home, but also a number of UK institutions, including Durham and KCL, have recently announced a move towards online teaching and examinations.

Tags: coronavirus, International students, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia 72 hours

Anja Samy

Editor-In-Chief of The Mancunion and Head of Manchester Media Group.
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