Newcastle University sees more than 1,000 students test positive for coronavirus

Naomi Ackerman
·3-min read
Newcastle University, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease: REUTERS
Newcastle University, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease: REUTERS

More than 1,000 students at Newcastle University have tested positive for coronavirus, in one of the UK's largest campus outbreaks of the disease.

The university said 1,003 of its 28,000 students had tested positive for Covid-19 between October 1 and October 7.

More than 70 universities in the UK have confirmed cases of coronavirus as students return to campus, and thousands of students are now self isolating.

Large clusters have been reported at institutions including Manchester Metropolitan, Glasgow, Nottingham, and Sheffield universities.

Another higher education institution in the Newcastle region, Northumbria University, reported 770 positive tests among students last Friday.

The latest figures came after both universities announced they would be switching to online teaching for a minimum of three weeks, unless in-person lessons were an essential part of the course.

A Newcastle University spokesperson said "the overwhelming majority of cases" were from "social and residential settings".

Northumbria has reported 770 positive tests (AFP via Getty Images)
Northumbria has reported 770 positive tests (AFP via Getty Images)

She added: "We expected to see cases rise in light of the increase in cases both locally and nationally and all HE institutions have to manage this on an ongoing basis.

There has also been a large outbreak at the University of Leeds (PA)
There has also been a large outbreak at the University of Leeds (PA)

"We feel confident that we have appropriate measures in place to protect us all while we are on campus and to reduce the potential for transmission in our community."

One lecturer, who asked not to be named, said: "I feel heartily sorry for the students.

"They've essentially had no choice but to come to university, and sit in their rented accommodation, often rented from the university, and stew.

"I suspect not all but many are getting nothing, and probably less, out of their uni experience than they would in the relative safety of their homes.

"After all, who could have predicted that bringing thousands of people together from all over the country, and other countries, in confined spaces would not risk an explosion in infections?

Universities are being advised to support students (Getty Images)
Universities are being advised to support students (Getty Images)

"It was sheer lunacy and a lot of staff are angry about it, and not just because of how it affects them."

Meanwhile, at Leeds University, 555 students and three staff members have tested positive between September 28 and October 4.

Professor Simone Buitendijk, vice chancellor, said: "We are acutely aware that behind each number is an individual with their own needs and concerns, and ensuring the safety, health and wellbeing of everyone is our absolute priority."

Nearly 500 students and staff at Sheffield University have tested positive for Covid-19 since the start of term, with 108 new student cases reported on Monday alone. The institution has announced on its website that it will be moving to online-only teaching from Friday.

Figures posted on the University of Nottingham website earlier this week revealed 425 of its students had been diagnosed with active cases of Covid-19 within a week.

A spokesperson for the university, which has around 35,000 students, said that the high numbers are in part due to its own additional testing programme for asymptomatic cases.

Last week the Standard reported the first known outbreak of Covid-19 at a London university. Students are self-isolating after a “small cluster” of cases were found at the Royal College of Music.

Around 50 students have been told to self-isolate in the Prince Consort Village student accommodation in Hammersmith. A spokeswoman for the university said no other buildings have been affected.

Universities UK, which represents 139 institutions, has published a new checklist stating that students should be given access to basic necessities during self-isolation - including food, laundry services, cleaning materials, bin bags, tissues and toilet rolls.

The National Union of Students (NUS) has also warned that undergraduates being "trapped in halls" could exacerbate mental health issues.

Despite the outbreaks and warnings that infection rates among young people on campuses continue to rise steeply, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to get university students back to their families for Christmas.

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