Nearly 1,000 Durham University students test positive for Covid

Nearly 1,000 Durham University students and six staff have tested positive for Covid in last week

  • The figures were released by the university as part of its weekly Covid update
  • The cases were reported by staff and students through university’s own system
  • The university has now seen a total of 1,220 cases since start of term this year
  • Uni says spike linked to outbreaks at St Mary’s College and Collingwood College 

Nearly 1,000 staff and students at Durham University have tested positive for coronavirus within one week.

A total of 958 students and six members of staff tested positive in the week leading up to October 14.

It comes after 222 students and members of staff tested positive for the virus the previous week.

This brings the total number of cases to 1,220 since the start of term, with 11 cases among staff and 1,209 among students – surpassing neighbouring Newcastle University which reported 749 new cases, bringing its total to 760.

The figures were released by Durham University as part of its weekly update on the number of cases that have been reported by students or staff through its own system.

It follows 800 students living at the institute’s St Mary’s and Collingwood College being told to quarantine following a spike in cases.

Mobile testing centre set up at Durham University where almost 1,000 students tested positive

A spokesman for the university said: ‘Over the last 7 days, the number of reported positive coronavirus cases in students and staff has been steady, with approximately 100-150 new reported cases each day.

‘We are proactively and regularly monitoring and managing the situation with local and national public health experts and taking appropriate action where required.

‘We have proactively managed the two significant outbreaks we have faced, in two of our colleges – St Mary’s College and Collingwood College – by introducing new measures for our students living in those colleges.

‘Working with Durham County Council’s Public Health Team, these measures were put in place on Thursday (8 October) to limit movement of students within these colleges to further restrict the spread of coronavirus.

‘The new measures are in addition to the current Government restrictions.

‘We continue to communicate regularly with our staff and students, to promote expected behaviours and to reinforce key information on the Government restrictions and additional guidance in place on university campus in the interests of everybody’s health, safety and wellbeing.

‘Our teaching and wider student experience activity continues both online and face-to-face, in Covid-secure setting.’

The university says rise in cases is linked to outbreaks at two of its colleges – St Mary’s College and Collingwood College – and that measures are being put in place to manage the spread

According to weekly rates by local area, County Durham had 322.4 cases per 100,000 in the week up to October 10, with 1,709 new cases – a significant jump from 179.8 cases per 100,000 and 953 new cases the previous week. 

Durham is currently under tier two – ‘high’ – restrictions in the new three-tier system.

It follows Boris Johnson pledging to ‘get students home safely for Christmas’, despite the rising number of Covid-19 cases at universities.

Sheffield University reported 588 student infections in the week ending 8 October, which is equal to an infection rate of 2,028 per 100,000 people – the standard measure for analysing outbreaks. 

Outbreaks in student areas are significantly worse than in other parts of the country and in one part of Manchester one in 20 people were proved to be carrying the disease. 

Local positive test data from earlier this month showed that per-person infection rates of Covid-19 were up to seven times higher than in the worst affected towns and cities overall, and up to 45 times higher than the England average. 

Known for living in large households, mixing with strangers and having very active social lives, students create arguably the ideal environment for a Covid-19 outbreak.

A sign seen at a halls in Manchester earlier this month. Boris Johnson has pledged to ‘get students home safely for Christmas’, despite the rising number of cases at universities

Students Lauren Watson (left) and Olivia Austin at The Forge student accommodation at Sheffield Hallam University which has seen a rise in the number of Covid-19 cases

Data analysed by The Times shows in Fallowfield in Manchester – a thriving student suburb of the city – five per cent of people tested positive for the disease in the week ending October 2.

This is equivalent to a weekly coronavirus infection rate of almost 5,000 cases for every 100,000 people. 

A per-100,000 rate is the standard way of measuring Covid-19 infections, although Fallowfield’s population is only around 15,000 people. 

This rate dwarfs that of the hotspot when entire council areas were taken into account – Nottingham had the highest whole-area rate with 689 cases per 100,000. 

Sarah Doran, a consultant in public health who is leading Manchester’s response to Covid-19, said a pilot scheme to mass-test students in halls of residence has led to high figures reported.

Public health officials handed out hundreds of tests to locked down students in Manchester Metropolitan University’s halls of residence at the end of September.

Data shows in Fallowfield in Manchester – a thriving student suburb of the city – five per cent of people tested positive for the disease in the week ending October 2

Students draw at Quayside in Newcastle during their first contact with Newcastle University since they joined over a week ago amid the spread of coronavirus 

One in four were found to have Covid-19 (272 of 640 tests) after major outbreaks across two sets of MMU halls in September.

While Nottingham, the worst affected city according to test results analysed by the Press Association, has the highest rate of any local authority at around 0.06 per cent of the population infected, rates were considerably higher in university boroughs.

One of Nottingham’s own student districts – named University Park, Lenton Abbey & Jubilee Campus – was the second worst affected area behind Fallowfield.

There, 451 people tested positive in the week up to October 2, indicating four per cent of the population was diagnosed.

This is how Covid-19 infection rates look in some of England’s worst-hit student areas.

The rates were calculated by The Times as positive tests per 100,000 people in the population between September 26 and October 2. 

All areas have populations smaller than 100,000, but the rate is a standardised measure used across the country for ease of comparison. 

ENGLAND AVERAGE: 111 per 100,000

England’s deputy chief medical officer. Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, warned on Monday that cases were spreading from younger people to the more vulnerable older generation. 

At a press briefing from No. 10, he said that while the epidemic ‘re-started’ again among younger people over the past few weeks, there is ‘clear evidence of a gradual spread into older age groups’ in the worst-hit areas. 

A spokesman for the Department of Education said last night: ‘All students will be able to go home at Christmas if they so choose.

‘However, if students are travelling home, we must ensure they do so in a way which minimises the risks of spreading the virus, and the date when universities must stop in-person teaching will be an important part of this. 

‘We will set out details on this shortly.’

Meanwhile, experts have criticised the plans to put universities into lockdown, saying they will increase Covid-19 infections.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson last month revealed the proposal to self-isolate students between 8 and 22 December.

He earlier told the Commons: ‘We are going to work with universities to make sure that all students are supported to return home safely and spend Christmas with their loved ones, if they choose to do so.’

But Ellen Brooks-Pollock from the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours, which provides advice to SAGE (the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies), said the plan could ‘lead to an outbreak’ due to overcrowding in halls of residences.  

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘Two weeks might be enough for students living in smaller households, living with two or three other people, but in these halls of residence where there’s really a lot of people living together it could just lead to an outbreak in those halls of residence.’ 

Ms Brooks-Pollock added: ‘And if there’s already disseminated infections, many of which are unobserved, two weeks wouldn’t be long enough at the end of term: it’s too late, essentially.’ 

Universities’ minister Michelle Donelan is expected to hold talks today in an effort to raise support for the plan, which will involve students staying on campus while being taught online, according to The Guardian.  

However, vice-chancellors are said to be concerned about the plan, with higher education bosses expressing doubt over sending a high volume of students home together on public transport in one day. 

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