770 students at Northumbria University test positive for Covid-19

2 October 2020, 17:07 | Updated: 2 October 2020, 17:50

770 students at Northumbria University have tested positive for coronavirus
770 students at Northumbria University have tested positive for coronavirus. Picture: Google
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

770 students at Northumbria University in Newcastle have tested positive for Covid-19, of whom 78 are symptomatic.

More than 50 universities in the UK have so far confirmed cases of coronavirus as thousands of students return to campuses across the country.

One survey has suggested that there have been more than 2,000 infections identified among students and staff.

A spokesperson for Northumbria University confirmed the outbreak early Friday evening and said all those affected are now self-isolating, along with anyone they have come into close contact with, such as flatmates.

"As of Friday 2 October, we can confirm that we are aware of 770 Northumbria University students who have tested positive for Covid-19, of whom 78 are symptomatic," the spokesperson said.

"These students are all now self-isolating. Their flatmates and any close contacts are also self-isolating for 14 days in line with government guidance and have been advised to contact NHS119 to book a test as soon as possible should symptoms appear."

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All students who have gone into quarantine at the institution are being supported, the university explained, and they are being provided with food and other essential items, including welfare and mental health support.

A spokesperson for Northumbria Students' Union said they were also providing assistance to those affected by the outbreak.

“In cases where students are isolating we're pleased to be able to support safe isolation, with our student volunteers assisting with grocery deliveries to accommodation, and by enabling virtual attendance to our society events," the spokesperson said.

Councillor Irim Ali of Newcastle City Council urged students not to undermine the efforts made by universities to get them back in classes safely and as swiftly as possible.

“Students contribute a great deal to Newcastle; they are an important part of our city's make up and we want them to enjoy their time here safely," he said.

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Cllr Ali added: "We would ask that they take every effort to understand Covid specific legislation, self-isolate and book a test if they develop symptoms and do their bit to help this city through the pandemic.

"Most are already doing this, but if we are to beat the virus, we need a collective effort.”

Elsewhere, there have been more than 200 cases at the University of Sheffield while 177 University of Liverpool staff and students have tested positive for the virus, according to a Press Association news agency survey which contacted 140 institutions.

Around 56 universities across the UK have had at least one confirmed case of Covid-19, an analysis of university responses and media reports suggests, equating to roughly 2,500 infections.

The findings come as the University of Manchester - where there have been 221 cases of Covid-19 - apologised for "conflicting information" given to students from some residential staff about isolation.

However, not all cases among students and staff have been reported "on campus", with some occurring in local communities or in private halls of residence.

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."

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