As the government announces a lockdown for all citizens, concerns grow for the seven million students NUS represents, both here and abroad. NUS National President, Zamzam Ibrahim, commented:
“The announcement by the Prime Minister demonstrates just how serious the situation with coronavirus (COVID-19) has become. As individual mobility is becoming stringently restricted, for an unknown period of time, everyone needs clarity and assurances on issues causing them heightened anxiety. Students need to be confident that they will have the right to remain in their accommodation without unnecessary costs, the right to stay in the UK, and the staff they see every day will be safe.
“While the wider public has been given answers to many of their questions, the government and authorities must now ensure students receive the support they need to endure this pandemic. The government must ban all evictions, for all renters, for the duration of the crisis and ensure that renters who are financially impacted by the coronavirus have their forthcoming rents subsidised, significantly reduced or waived entirely for 3 months. They should also ensure that all student landlords offer a no-penalty release from tenancy contracts for the current and next academic year, so that students are not financially impacted where they are forced to leave campus.
“International students will be hit particularly hard by the epidemic and the government must act quickly to guarantee the extension of all Tier 4 visas for students who have to remain in the UK as a result of coronavirus. Stigmatised by “health tourism” rhetoric and the health surcharge, international students should also be reassured by the government about their access and right to healthcare.
“Universities and colleges must lead the way in taking non-essential staff off campus for their own safety. Students have a responsibility to their community, and the vast majority of them have been supported by universities to do so. We urge the education sector to invest in their workforce and in infrastructure so that everyone is able to work safely.”