Officials linked the hundreds of confirmed cases to illicit parties, but students said it was unfair to blame them when they had received little support from their schools or the government.
Students in Scotland were banned from visiting pubs, bars and restaurants over the weekend and were told there must be no parties or socializing outside their households.
Around 1,700 students at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) in northern England were ordered to self-isolate or risk facing "disciplinary action" after 127 Covid-19 cases were confirmed on campus, according to the university and local authorities.
A statement from Manchester City Council on Friday said a decision had been taken with the university and Public Health England to "implement a local lockdown for student accommodation at the Birley campus and Cambridge Halls" in a bid to "stop the transmission of the virus among students and prevent it getting into the wider community."
Students living in two main dorms were asked via email on Friday night to self-isolate in their residences for 14 days regardless of whether or not they have symptoms.
Levins Solicitors, a law firm representing nine students, said it had seen recordings showing security and accommodation staff stopping students from leaving.
After lawyers raised questions over the legality of enforcing the quarantine, MMU said in a statement: "We are unable to prevent our students from leaving the halls, but our students are bright young adults and we trust that they will do the right thing."
It said it was "developing an additional package of care and financial support to assist students." The university also apologized after reports of students being told via email to remove protest signs from their windows. It said the email "didn't reflect the University's view" and it respected "the rights of students to express themselves," although it said "the posters must not break the law or they'll have to be removed."
Greater Manchester Police said no unlawful posters had been reported.
Read the full story: