What future does COVID-19 hold for students?

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On March 15, the Guardian reported a secret Public Health England briefing for senior NHS officials which discussed the prospect of COVID-19 lasting in the UK until spring 2021.

During this period, it is said that up to 80% of the population could be infected with 7.9 million needing hospitalisation. Although Professor Chris Witty said that this number is only for the worst-case scenario and that the real figure would be lower, it still does not stop the fear that is plaguing the country.

Currently, there is a narrative that the number of cases would decrease by the end of June after its peak, from the end of May to mid-June, but it would increase again during winter in November. What does this mean for students, more specifically international students? Many international students like myself, have returned to their home countries to be with family during this worrying time but we intend to return to the UK to continue our degree. Will we still have to stay in our home countries until 2021 and possibly continue our education online?

As it is, the NHS is unable to cope with the rapidly increasing number of patients. Testing services are also unable to supply for everyone, causing NHS workers to not be tested which increases the risk of transmission between them and patients. Furthermore, out of the 5 million who are a part of the essential workforce, 500,000 of them will be ill at any one point during the peak. It is clear to see that the UK will be facing very difficult times in the next few months.

This also brings up questions as to how will we react to the virus, should it return in the next winter? Will it have the same impact on us and require more lockdowns? Or will it become a seasonal flu that many of us would have to get used to? The future looks very unclear and uncertain for many of us, particularly for prospective students whose A-Levels have been cancelled, calling for a new criteria to be prepared by universities to replace the exams.

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