Nearly 4,000 students have Covid across 56 universities in the UK

Nearly 4,000 students have Covid: 70 Durham University undergraduates and 166 at Queen’s University Belfast are latest to test positive as outbreaks sweep campuses forced into lockdown just weeks into new term

  • Total of 69 students and one member of staff had the virus at Durham University
  • It takes overall total cases since the start of term to 79, with three staff members
  • The figures were released by Durham University as part of weekly cases update
  • Around 56 universities across the UK have had at least one confirmed infection

Nearly 4,000 students at more than 50 universities across the UK have tested positive for coronavirus as Durham is the latest to see a surge in cases.

A total of 69 students and one member of staff had the virus in the week leading up to October 4 at the prestigious institution.

It takes the overall total of cases since the start of term to 79, made up of three members of staff and 76 students.

Outbreaks have been sweeping campuses and forcing students to isolate despite the new term only starting weeks ago.

Other universities to report a spike in infections include:

  • Newcastle’s universities have about 850 students positive and they are all now self-isolating;
  • Nearly 500 people were revealed to have tested positive for coronavirus at Sheffield University; 
  • More than 400 students and eight staff members have it at the University of Nottingham;
  • Queen’s University Belfast is ‘closely monitoring’ 166 students and staff who have the disease; 
  • And 177 University of Liverpool staff and students have tested positive as of last week.

Nearly 4,000 students at more than 50 universities across the UK have tested positive for coronavirus as Durham (pictured) is the latest to see a surge in cases

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

A university spokesman said: ‘Since the beginning of Term 1 we have had a small, but growing, number of positive cases which were handled in conjunction with Durham County Council Public Health colleagues.

Which UK universities have the 4,000 Covid cases?

  • Stirling: 14
  • Glasgow: 172
  • Salford: 56
  • Liverpool University: 177
  • Nottingham University: 425
  • Swansea: 32
  • Oxford Brookes: 47
  • Kent University: 11
  • De Montford: 9
  • Manchester University: 382
  • Newcastle/Northumbria: 850
  • Sheffield University: 500
  • Queen’s University Belfast: 166

*Some universities have not disclosed figures

‘All affected staff and students are self-isolating in accordance with NHS guidance, and are receiving our full support.

‘When we are notified by students or staff of a suspected or confirmed case of Covid-19, or that someone is having to self-isolate because of close contact or being in the same household as someone else with a confirmed case of Covid-19, we follow detailed processes and procedures to ensure their health and wellbeing, and to reduce onward transmission.

‘When a member of the university community tests positive, they self-isolate with their household in line with Government guidelines.

‘We are in regular contact with Durham County Council, Public Health England and other partners to make sure that we are sharing information (not personal information) about the local situation and responding to the latest guidance.’

It comes as more than 850 students at Northumbria and Newcastle universities were told to self-isolate after testing positive for coronavirus.

On October 2, Northumbria University confirmed 770 of its students have contracted Covid-19, with 78 of those displaying symptoms.

All students who have tested positive were told to self-isolate along with their flatmates and anyone they have been in contact with, the university confirmed.

A further 94 confirmed Covid-19 cases were also recorded among students at Newcastle University, bringing the city total to 864.

University and College Union (UCU) said it warned Northumbria University that it was ‘far too soon for a mass return to campus’.

More than 850 students at Northumbria (pictured) and Newcastle universities were told to self-isolate after testing positive for coronavirus

In a statement the UCU said: ‘We told Northumbria University they had a civic duty to put the health of staff, students and the local community first and we take no pleasure in now seeing another preventable crisis play out.

‘We warned last month that, given the current restrictions in the region, the direction of the infection rate and the problems with test and trace, it was clearly far too soon for a mass return to campus.’

Meanwhile nearly 500 people have tested positive for coronavirus at the University of Sheffield in a mass outbreak of the disease.

According to an online tracker on the university’s website, 474 students and five staff members have tested positive for Covid-19 since September 28.

Sheffield University has around 8,000 staff members and usually hosts 29,000 students on its campus every academic year. 

A spokesman said those affected by coronavirus were following Government guidelines and that support is available.

It is understood that no whole student accommodation blocks are in lockdown at the moment.

Nearly 500 people have tested positive for coronavirus at the University of Sheffield (pictured) in a mass outbreak of the disease

The spokesman said: ‘We recognise how difficult it is for students who are new to Sheffield and need to self-isolate because of Covid-19 cases.

‘To make sure we are supporting students in the best way possible, we will contact all students who are self-isolating to check on their welfare and offer practical and emotional support.’ 

The weekly coronavirus rate in Sheffield for the seven days to October 1 now stands at 233.1 new cases per 100,000 people.

There have been new fears over tighter restrictions in Sheffield after nearly 300 Covid-19 cases were recorded in a single day.

Last night the University of Nottingham revealed it had recorded 425 cases of the deadly disease, among staff and students.

A staggering 400 students and eight staff at the East Midlands institution are now self isolating.

A spokesman said the number would be ‘higher than other universities’ due to its unique asymptomatic testing regime.

Most of the students who had the virus lived in private accommodation but 106 were in university halls of residence and 93 were in purpose-built student flats.

Last night the University of Nottingham (pictured) revealed it had recorded 425 cases of the deadly disease, among staff and students

The spokesperson said: ‘Alongside the national Pillar 2 testing regime for people with symptoms of Covid-19, the university is also running its own asymptomatic testing programme which identifies cases earlier and more quickly.

‘While this means our case data will be higher than other universities, it means that we can identify cases that otherwise would remain undetected and thereby reduce asymptomatic transmission and the number of future cases.’

Institutions in Northern Ireland are also bearing the brunt of the crisis, with Queen’s University Belfast ‘closely monitoring’ an increase in coronavirus cases.

It has been reported that 166 students and staff at the south Belfast university have tested positive for Covid-19.

Around 25,000 students started back last month for the new academic year.

In a statement the university said the safety and wellbeing of staff and students is its ‘first priority’, and a ‘range of interventions’ have been made across campus.

‘The university is liaising with the Public Health Agency (PHA) on a daily basis to ensure the university is continuing to apply the correct measures to limit the spread of infection,’ a spokesperson said.

‘Although the number of staff and students affected remains a minority, the increase in number of positive cases is a concern and the university fully appreciates that this may cause anxiety for students, staff, and their families.

‘Queen’s is closely monitoring the situation and will not hesitate to apply additional measures to further protect members of our community as considered necessary in discussions with the PHA.’

Institutions in Northern Ireland are also bearing the brunt of the crisis, with Queen’s University Belfast (pictured) ‘closely monitoring’ an increase in coronavirus cases

The university went on to detail that evidence gathered through contact tracing has indicated that transmission of the virus is happening in social or accommodation settings.

Sinn Fein MLA John O’Dowd has urged the university authorities to ensure their messaging is clear.

‘Queen’s University must do all within its powers to ensure students in its accommodation are informed of all procedures in place to keep students and others safe,’ he said.

‘Effective communication is key and I would urge university authorities to ensure their messaging is clear and being received and understood by students.’

Mr O’Dowd also urged Economy Minister Diane Dodds and Health Minister Robin Swann to bring forward Covid-19 advice for students through the Public Health Agency.

Back across the Irish Sea, Liverpool University has seen 177 staff and students have tested positive as of last week.

Liverpool University (pictured) has seen 177 staff and students have tested positive as of last week

The University of Manchester – where there have been 382 cases of Covid-19 since September 21 – apologised for ‘conflicting information’ given to students from some residential staff about isolation.

The BBC reported students were told a member of an isolating home could go to the shops for food if they could not get deliveries, and they could use laundry services as long as they wore a mask.

A university spokesman said: ‘The safety and wellbeing of our students is our main concern. We are proud of the work carried out by our Residential Life Team who live in halls alongside our students.

‘If some members of that team have issued conflicting information, we apologise. All students have now been sent a single clear message.’

The highest number of cases among students and staff appear to be in northern cities in England as well as Scottish universities – which reopened first – but there have been cases at institutions across the UK.

The University of Manchester – where there have been 382 cases of Covid-19 since September 21 – apologised for ‘conflicting information’ given to students from some residential staff about isolation

There have been 47 cases among students at Oxford Brookes university, while at Sussex University one member of staff and 10 students are self-isolating after testing positive for Covid-19, a survey showed.

But not all cases among students and staff have been reported ‘on campus’. Some have occurred in local communities or in private halls of residence.

Over 4,000 Covid-19 cases have now been identified among university students and staff.

Around 56 universities across the UK have had at least one confirmed case of Covid-19, an analysis of university responses and media reports suggested this week.

More than 2,600 positive cases of Covid-19 were identified at these universities, the analysis found, before more cases were confirmed today and yesterday.

Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, vice president for higher education at the National Union of Students (NUS), said: ‘The rise of Covid rates at universities needs drastic action now.

‘It is deeply irresponsible to continue with business as usual and the government and universities must be honest with students about what the pandemic can mean for their university experience.’

She said: ‘Fully accessible online education must become a reality immediately and we need digital investment at a national scale to make this happen.’

Speaking at an independent Sage meeting on Friday, Professor Christina Pagel from University College London (UCL) said: ‘I think we have to acknowledge that students need to be supported at university and it shouldn’t kind of be a blame game.’

She added: ‘If you stuck me in the house with seven strangers, I’m much more likely to get Covid than I am where I am now, and I think that has to be acknowledged.’

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi), said: ‘It is a stressful and difficult time for students at the moment and no one would have wished this particular start to the academic year.

‘But we also need to recognise that the number of students with positive tests and also the number self-isolating is a tiny proportion of the total UK student body.

‘Universities do need to support students that are self-isolating and, much – but not all – of the time, that support seems to be getting to where it is needed.’

 

 

Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), said: ‘It is an outrage that ministers and universities spent the summer talking up a student experience that the science and staff said was never likely.’

She added: ‘The priority for ministers now must be a support package that underwrites lost income for universities and provides vital protection for staff and students.’

A Universities UK (UUK) spokesman said: ‘The priority for all universities is to support the health and wellbeing of their students, staff and local communities and ensure that students can continue with their education during this pandemic.

‘This is a very challenging time with Covid-19 cases rising in many communities.

‘All universities are working in partnership with their local authorities and public health bodies to adapt to the changing local circumstances, to effectively implement outbreak response plans to protect their communities and to continue to ensure measures are in place to reduce risks.

‘Where students are self-isolating, universities are taking care of both their physical and emotional wellbeing including access to testing and health care, mental health support, continuing learning online, safe social interaction, food deliveries, laundry, and financial support.’

A Government spokesman said: ‘We recognise this has been a really challenging time for students, particularly for those having to self-isolate at the start of their university journey. We have asked universities to make sure those that are isolating have all the support they need.

‘Universities are well prepared for a local outbreak, and we have worked with them to help draw up plans for measures in the event of positive cases on campus, or a rise in cases locally.’

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