02 October 2020 20:45
A spokesman for the university said: "As of Friday October 2, we can confirm that we are aware of 770 Northumbria University students who have tested positive for Covid-19, of whom 78 are symptomatic. "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 NHS 119 to book a test as soon as possible should symptoms appear." Northumbria has just under 27,000 students, meaning more than one in 50 is now infected. It stressed that just 78 students testing positive had been symptomatic and the rest had been picked up through rigorous track and trace procedures. But the developments have led to concerns that other universities have equally high numbers of asymptomatic cases that are not being picked up.
On Friday afternoon, Newcastle University confirmed that 94 students and seven staff members have tested positive for Covid-19. A statement said the majority were in home settings and had not been transmitted on campus. Irim Ali, Newcastle City Council's cabinet member for neighbourhoods and public health, said volunteers were being mobilised to take food parcels and essential items to isolating students and added that a "small number" of students were to blame for the outbreak. "It is essential that all students act with the same responsibility as other residents and do their bit to protect our city from the virus," she said. However, speaking at an Independent Sage meeting on Friday, Professor Christina Pagel, from University College London, said it was wrong to blame students for the outbreak. "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 said. "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." A survey by the Press Association identified at least 2,500 positive cases of coronavirus at British universities. There have been 47 cases among students at Oxford Brookes university, while one member of staff and 10 students at Sussex University are self-isolating after testing positive, the survey shows. Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, the vice-president for higher education at the National Union of Students, 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."