Students scramble to return home amid virus outbreak
Gibraltar’s university students have spoken of their fear and worry as they scrambled to find last-minute flights home after the spread of coronavirus across the UK.
Demi Green, 20, was on the easyJet flight from Bristol on Tuesday night that was diverted to Malaga due to adverse weather conditions on the Rock.
Miss Green, a final-year Biology student at Cardiff University, told the Chronicle she “just wanted to get home.”
“We were getting frustrated and had to speak to the head flight attendant and the captain until the situation was sorted out and we could disembark in Malaga,” she said.
“I just want to thank the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, the Spanish authorities and everyone else who helped to let us out.”
The pilot told the group of around 50 students that they “must have some good connections” as the student began celebrating.
Miss Green has rescheduled her flight when airlines began dropping their service.
Before leaving Cardiff, she did her final presentation and handed in her dissertation while also packing up her room and bringing the essentials home for the next few months.
All that she has left to do are her exams and some lectures, which are available on line.
She has not yet received confirmation that she can sit her exams in Bleak House in Gibraltar.
“I was very worried once I saw coronavirus was spreading and I was worried I would not be able to get home,” Miss Green said.
“I have four grandparents and family members who are not well and my priority was simply to come back home so that I could help them.”
Now that she is back in Gibraltar, Miss Green said she will go into self-isolation for the next seven to 10 days to ensure she has not been infected with the virus before she meets her friends and family in Gibraltar.
As a biology student, she has also reached out to the hospital to offer her help in the laboratories.
Other students also spoke to the Chronicle about their concerns in getting back to Gibraltar.
Samuel Marrache, 22, who is studying Law at UCL, re-booked his flights on two occasions “once the UK passed the 1,000 case mark”.
“Living in central London, the hub of Covid-19 in the UK, I was worried and my next priority was finding flights out of the country as soon as possible following the announcement that all physical teaching was to move online,” he said.
Now that he is back in Gibraltar, he is still attending his seminars using the university’s online platforms and all physical, closed-book exams have been cancelled.
Meanwhile, he is still waiting to hear whether UCL Law intends to move the exams online.
Mr Marrache’s girlfiend, Chloe Canepa, 20, returned to Gibraltar with him.
She added she knew coronavirus “would spread rapidly in London first”, after seeing its spread in Italy.
Miss Canepa said she is concerned for her grandparents and those with underlying health conditions.
“I am also worried about the effects this will have on the economy as it is increasingly likely we will face another recession like that in 2008,” Miss Canepa said.
Now that she is back in Gibraltar, the King’s College Economics student will attend online lectures and tutorials, and has been given a week-long extension for her assignments.
Anna Buhler, 19, a law student at the University of Liverpool, described her return to Gibraltar as a “race against the clock” after things “escalated tremendously over the past seven days”.
She had to book a flight from a London airport after flights leaving Liverpool were fully booked.
Before flying back to Gibraltar, she said she was constantly checking to make sure her flight was not cancelled and said: “Last night was horrible. It wasn’t until we landed on the Gibraltar runway that I felt at ease.”
First-year University of York student, Matthew Porter, 18, was told all first year exams are were cancelled by the university.
But the Philosophy, Politics and Economics student will still have to work towards his assessments as normal.
When the news of coronavirus first broke, he said he was not very worried by the news after growing up so far away from epidemics such as SARS that originated in China or the Ebola virus in West Africa.
“However, when it was released that the first case that was reported of the virus in the UK was a student of the University I attend and that they had been staying in a hotel a mere 2km from my accommodation, the reality of the situation finally dawned on me,” he said.
“I think as the outbreak has progressed (even though we are still in the early stages of it) I have definitely paid closer attention to the constant updates being given by various local and international news outlets and have absolutely become a lot more concerned about the situation.”
The Department of Education has issued advice for all local and university students on its website https://www.education.gov.gi.
This includes advice on what to do if the student is infected with Covid-19, what to do if flights are cancelled, and telling the students to speak to their universities on future exam and assessment plans before making arrangements to return to Gibraltar.