Huge coronavirus outbreak infects nearly 500 students at Sheffield University in a week
A huge coronavirus outbreak has been confirmed at another university in England.
Nearly 500 students have tested positive for Covid-19 at the University of Sheffield, along with five members of staff.
Data shared on the university’s website confirms that 474 students have contracted the virus since Monday, September 28.
The figures relate to all University of Sheffield students who are living in the city, and all staff who are working on the campus.
The university follows the likes of Northumbria and Manchester in reporting high coronavirus cases at their universities.
A University of Sheffield spokesperson said: “We recognise how difficult it is for students who are new to Sheffield and need to self-isolate because of Covid-19 cases.
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“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.”
It is understood that there are no whole student accommodation blocks currently in lockdown.
The university has around 8,000 members of staff and around 29,000 students.
It has reported at least 80 new coronavirus cases everyday since last Thursday.
The weekly coronavirus rate in Sheffield for the seven days to October 1 now stands at 233.1 new cases per 100,000 people.
Last week, Northumbira University in Newcastle confirmed that 770 students tested positive for coronavirus.
Of the cases, 78 of those are believed to by symptomatic.
All students who have tested positive are now self-isolating along with their flatmates and anyone they have been in contact with, the university confirmed.
A spokesperson 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 NHS119 to book a test as soon as possible should symptoms appear.
“We are making it clear to students that if they break the rules they will be subject to fines from police and disciplinary action by the Universities which may include fines, final warnings or expulsion.”
The University and College Union said many of its 900 members at the university are extremely concerned about the situation.
They are now demanding that teaching moves online.
UCU regional officer Iain Owens said the union has already begun preparations for a ballot for industrial action which would involve members refusing to take part in all but online teaching.
Mr Owens said he will be writing to the senior management of the university on Monday morning asking for an urgent meeting as he fears the necessary preparations for a ballot will render the process too slow to deal with a fast-moving situation.
He told the PA news agency: “A lot of our members are scared.”
Mr Owens added: “This is a massive outbreak in the student population. It’s a massive outbreak for the city.
“Many students live in the community and people must be wondering about who’s been in the local shops and everything else.
“It was predicted that, if you move 50,000 people into Newcastle from different parts of the country in the middle of a pandemic, there’s going to be serious consequences.”
Northumbria University has clarified that the 770 figure represents the cumulative number of students who have reported testing positive since they started to return to university for the start of term in mid-September.
And more than 220 people tested positive for Covid-19 at the University of Manchester.
The figures from the University of Manchester are of “serious concern” and the institution has bowed to pressure from unions, students and parents to release the figures daily.
The infection rate in the city for people aged 17 to 21 rose to 745 cases per 100,000 in the last week, the Manchester Evening News revealed.
After a handful of confirmed cases between September 21 and 27, a total of 53 students and three staff tested positive last Monday, September 28, and further 129 students and one member of staff on Tuesday.
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