MORE than 750 students at Northumbria University are self-isolating after testing positive for Covid-19.
A spokesperson for the university, in Newcastle, said that as of Friday, it was aware of 770 students testing positive – only 78 of whom were showing symptoms of the virus.
All these students, as well as their flatmates and any close contacts, are self-isolating for 14 days in line with Government guidance, the spokesperson said.
The university is among more than 50 institutions to have confirmed coronavirus cases in recent weeks, as thousands of students return to campuses.
This week, University of Sunderland confirmed its own batch of cases, involving 40 students and four staff.
By comparison, Glasgow University has seen some 124 confirmed cases and there have been 221 recorded at the University of Manchester.
Reacting to the figures at Northumbria University, Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: “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.
“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.
“The university sector and the Government must address this public health crisis immediately.”
Self-isolating Northumbria University students are being provided with food, laundry, cleaning materials and welfare support by the university, working alongside the students’ union and Newcastle City Council.
Meanwhile, students will also receive additional academic support if they miss out on face-to-face tuition during their isolation period.
The university spokesperson added: “The increase in numbers comes in the week after students returned to university and reflects the good access to and availability of testing, as well as rigorous and robust reporting systems.
“In parts of the UK where universities started term earlier, numbers of student cases surged in induction week, and then reduced.
“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.”
They added: “Both Northumbria and Newcastle universities have Covid response teams on call that are working closely with NHS Test and Trace, Public Health England North East and the City to identify and get in touch with anyone who has been in close contact with those affected.”
Students also being encouraged to download the NHS Covid-19 app.
A spokesperson for the Northumbria Students’ Union said it had been working with the university and council to “create an environment where students can not only safely access the education they came here for, but enjoy life on campus too”.
“We’ve adapted the use of our buildings and the services we provide to ensure that students enjoy a great start to their university experience, whilst taking every precaution to limit the spread of the virus,” they added.