Isolation of Students in University Hostels Cruel and Unusual


“The requirement for students in college hostels to self-isolate, unable to leave their rooms shows how absurdly unbalanced our COVID response has become,” says ACT chief David Seymour.

“I hear from parents of students effectively jailed for 24 hours, unable to go out even to exercise due to being in contact with COVID cases. This is happening in several hostels at different universities and is apparently due to hostel managers following Ministry of Health guidelines.

“I also hear students from halls such as University Hall, Tupānuku and College House at the University of Canterbury say that students are only allowed to leave their rooms to go to the toilet for seven days. If they are positive or if there is another contact, the period can be extended further.

“Other students report that ‘people refuse to get tested because they don’t want to be locked up, they lose faith in the system.’

“These students are forced to miss their first week of college during lockdown, often they are young people living away from home for the first time. This is a deeply distressing situation that the government must justify with demonstrable public health benefits.

“Again, there does not appear to be a cost-benefit analysis of these rules. To what extent will forcing these people into isolation slow the spread? What effect will the isolation of 17 and 18 year olds, who are low risk as an age group, have on hospitalization? What is the government trying to achieve with these policies?

“The isolation rules are no different to those faced by all New Zealanders deemed to be close contacts. However, they are felt acutely by students in university hostels as they live close to each other and are isolated in small rooms. Some are forced to isolate themselves in conditions that would be illegal if they were convicted felons in prison, who are allowed one hour of exercise a day. Others are required to isolate on their soil for a week.

“One thing that would help is the widespread availability of rapid antigen tests. The ACT says if you test negative you should be free to go, but since the government first banned rapid antigen tests, then let some people import them, then confiscated those that were allowed, rapid antigen tests are barely available.

“The government needs to cope and at the very least change the rules so these students can leave the building to exercise or better yet change the isolation rules for everyone else.”

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