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Revealed: How Manchester’s testing crisis is affecting students

Bella Fleming, who studies MSc Marketing at the University of Manchester, tested positive for
coronavirus this week.

But after frantically calling the people she had seen within the last 14 days – her friends were unable to get tested.

One of Bella’s friends requested for a test but was not sent a QR code, meaning she was turned away from Etihad campus despite feeling seriously ill.

Another was offered a test 60 miles from Fallowfield, despite not being able to drive.

Although this falls within the 75-mile distance limit which was promised by the Department of Health, for those without access to transport or too ill to travel, these tests are simply inaccessible.

And University of Manchester students are not alone. Other students at Manchester Metropolitan University stopped isolating when they were unable to get a test.

A Manchester Metropolitan Sport Marketing Management student told The Mancunion they couldn’t get tested: “I was only doing it as a precaution on the off chance. My colleague [who had been in contact with someone with coronavirus] tested negative which made trying to get another test not worthwhile,” they said.

The lack of tests means more students are being advised to isolate, even when they are pretty certain it is not coronavirus.

Earlier this month, Sarah-Jane Marsh, Director of Testing, NHS Test and Trace, tweeted an apology to anyone who has struggled to access a coronavirus test.

Marsh explained that laboratory processing capacity affects the number of people able to be tested at a site each day: “All of our testing sites have capacity, which is why they don’t look overcrowded, it is our laboratory processing that is the critical pinch-point.”

A second-year Drama with French student at UoM contacted the GP about tonsillitis symptoms but was told she must isolate until the symptoms passed or she could get a test. The rest of her house have decided to isolate with her.

“Morally that’s the right thing to do, you don’t know how many lives you could save by doing that,” she said.

But that doesn’t stop her feeling guilty: “Everyone’s saying ‘it’s probably just tonsillitis’ and ‘I was planning to do this and that –  it’s my fault they can’t.”

With unclear advice from the government, students are advising their friends differently. Bella, who has tested positive, suggested her friends “isolate and try and get tests” whereas others have struggled to persuade friends to go into quarantine.

All students agreed it is harder to persuade people to isolate without an officially ‘positive’ result. Another MMU student said: “Unless it’s a complete positive, people [will] do what they want.”

And for other students, isolation is not an option. Bella, despite testing positive, has not been contacted by Test and Trace nor has she been sent an NHS login to complete it herself online.

A number of her friends she has been in contact with work in retail and are “interacting with people every day” but “aren’t allowed to not go in unless track and trace contact them”.

As the media and government increasingly focus on student behaviour, the failure of both testing and track and trace is making it impossible for students to ensure they are doing the right thing. This lack of tests is causing a greater mental toll on Manchester students.

Have you been affected by a lack of coronavirus tests in Greater Manchester? Let us know at
[email protected]

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