‘Serious concern’ as 221 University of Manchester staff and students test positive for coronavirus in ten days


More than 200 University of Manchester students and staff have tested positive for the coronavirus in the past ten days, it emerged this evening.The university began releasing daily figures publicly tonight under pressure from unions, students and parents.

Vice-Chancellor Nancy Rothwell admitted the numbers were “high” and “of serious concern”.

It comes after the MEN revealed that the infection rate of people aged 17 to 21 in Manchester rose to 745 cases per 100,000 people last week.

Students and parents have shared with us several reports of confirmed cases of coronavirus in student accommodation, including several university residences in Fallowfield.

Yesterday, the university issued a statement to MEN denying that there had been a “spike” or “epidemic” at its Fallowfield home.

But that position now appears to have changed following the release of the latest data.

After a handful of cases confirmed between September 21 and 27, a total of 53 students and three staff tested positive on Monday, and another 129 students and one staff member on Tuesday.

Fallowfield Central, the area that covers much of southern Manchester’s student accommodation, has now become one of the country’s main hotspots for the coronavirus.

The latest figures updated on Thursday show the rate has risen further – with 106 cases recorded in the week to September 26 and an infection rate of 863.

Fallowfield is the first area in the region to register more than 100 cases in a week since detailed registration began in July.

Manchester’s Director of Public Health Regan has confirmed that his public health team has met with the University of Manchester to discuss the latest data, as well as Unite Student Accommodation, the real estate company that operates many buildings in the city.

He said at present that there were no plans to implement large-scale lockdowns as happened at the MMU dorms – Birley and Cambridge.

“We encourage these [meetings] when we have a certain number of cases in particular blocks, ”Mr. Regan said.

“We did some pre-action planning.

“Obviously there will be strategies for when we put epidemic control in place for specific blocks. “

The infection rate has risen rapidly in recent weeks

However, the latest figures will be of concern to residents and councilors who are concerned about the spread of the coronavirus among students and possibly affecting more vulnerable parts of the residential population.

Meanwhile, more than 500 University of Manchester academics have sent a letter to management calling for all teaching for the 2020/21 Fall term to be uploaded to the extent possible and to allow the staff to make “local” decisions about how best to tailor their courses. .

The letter, sent Thursday to Vice Chancellor Nancy Rothwell, Registrar Patrick Hackett and Director of Student Experience Simon Merrywest, says management insisted on continuing with face-to-face teaching simply to preserve “the experience. on the campus “.

“This is not reason enough to put the lives of students and staff at risk while in many cases diminishing the quality of the actual learning experience,” the letter said.

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell

Union leaders said they supported the position and would like all education to be made available online on campuses across the country.

Martyn Moss, regional manager for the University and College Union, said: “The University of Manchester must provide full transparency on confirmed cases of Covid-19 among students and staff.

“The issues at nearby Manchester Metropolitan University have highlighted the need for transparency around Covid cases and the importance of clear plans to deal with outbreaks.

“The UCU has repeatedly called for in-person teaching to stop and to move as much work as possible online, in line with other workplaces. ”

Students stuck in self-isolation complained about a lack of support in obtaining food and medicine.

A mother told MEN she spoke to a Manchester University administrator who said they were ‘besieged’ by cases and struggling to reach those in need of help.

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University said: “We recognize that these are difficult and worrying times for our community. Our top priority is the safety and well-being of students and staff, which is why we have put in place a full range of support measures.

“We are as transparent as possible and will post a daily update (Monday through Friday) showing known confirmed cases among students and staff.

“The initial numbers of confirmed cases for students are high and worrying. They are consistent with the infection rates reported by many other universities and for this age group in the north of England.

‘We are one of the largest universities in the UK with around 40,000 students, so we expected our initial number of confirmed cases to be high, but this remains a serious concern.

“These figures are communicated daily to Public Health England to ensure effective coordination of actions. We have not been advised to lock our campus buildings or university residences.

“We’ve put in place comprehensive supports for self-isolating students, including access to a dedicated food delivery service, laundry pick-up service and online prescription delivery.

“Making sure our students have emotional support is really important and they all have access to 24/7 online support with a community of trained professionals, our academic advisory service and for students in the halls, we have after-hours teams that can provide additional support.

“Our arrangements ensure that our campus remains as safe a place as possible to work and study, in accordance with government guidelines.

“We have planned for a blended combination of online and in-person teaching, but with face-to-face teaching only when deemed appropriate, required and secure by local leaders. We maintain these provisions at all times. review. “


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