University of Newcastle students in COVID-19 self-isolation cases raise concerns about food and testing

University of Newcastle students living at International House have waited days to be tested for COVID-19, despite being close contacts of positive cases, Shadow Minister for the Hunter Yasmin Catley said.

The students are self-isolating in apartments at International House in the NSW Hunter Valley for 14 days, with five positive cases now linked to the site.

"I have been contacted by family members of residents concerned that, despite potentially being exposed to the virus, they are still waiting to be tested," Ms Catley, the Swansea MP, said.

Ms Catley said the failure to quickly organise testing for these students had placed "unnecessary stress on both the students and their families at what is already a very distressing time".

"Organising onsite testing for these students should have been a priority, in order to minimise the risks of any further exposure to the virus.

"I spoke with NSW Health and the University of Newcastle and demanded students be tested as soon as possible."

Security guards have been monitoring the students, some of whom felt like they'd been left in the dark about when they would be tested and how they would go about getting food supplies.

"Security has been extra strict on making sure we stay in our apartment," one student said, adding they were not supposed to chat with their housemates and have to wear masks in the kitchen.

"We had a fire evacuation and stood on our balconies and the security guards told us to go back inside."

Students believe one security guard at the site had tested positive to COVID-19, but the university did not comment on this claim.

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Two students living in one apartment block were moved on Monday to another block to isolate because they had interacted with the security guard, one student claimed.

After four days in isolation, some students were running out of food.

"We weren't told how we were getting food or anything," one student said. Another student said: "I've got one packet of noodles left."

They tried a Woolworths delivery, but it was not available until Friday. Ms Catley stepped in, saying Coles was providing a bulk order.

The university, with help from the University of Newcastle Students' Association [UNSA], delivered food hampers and essential supplies, through OzHarvest, to the campus on Tuesday to supplement supermarket home deliveries.

Food and care hampers were also being sent to International House apartments thanks to the students' association.

International House at the University of Newcastle. Picture: Marina Neil

International House at the University of Newcastle. Picture: Marina Neil

A University of Newcastle statement said NSW Health was "arranging a dedicated testing team to set up a testing clinic for student residents of the International House this week".

"This one-day pop-up testing site will be for current student residents of International House and will be set up very close to their accommodation. The university will share the details with impacted students in the coming days," the statement said.

"All student residents currently in International House will need to remain in isolation regardless of their test result."

The university said about 800 students who live on campus were tested for COVID-19 on Tuesday at a testing clinic on campus. These students were in residences separate to the isolated International House apartments.

Fifty student residents were tested every 30 minutes throughout the day.

"Analysis will be prioritised so that students get their results as quickly as possible," the university said.

The university said on Tuesday that a fifth case had been linked to International House.

Students living in any block of International House from July 28 to August 7 were "deemed a close contact" due to the positive cases.

It's believed that some students left their apartments and didn't return when they realised they would have to self isolate, but the university did not comment on this. It's unclear whether these students had been tracked down and told to self-isolate.

The university also said any student who has been living on campus at further "times of concern" was considered a casual contact and "should get tested and isolate until a negative result is obtained".

The times of concern were: 8pm on Thursday, August 5, to 6am on Friday, August 7. And 9pm to 11.30pm on Friday, August 7.

The venues of concern include Barahineban, Edwards Hall Self Catered, Evatt House, North Residence, South Residence, East Residence and West Residence.

This story COVID-19 isolates university students: 'I've got one packet of noodles left' first appeared on Newcastle Herald.