North East Covid
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Sarah Cossom

North East universities register record rise in Covid-19 cases

More than 1,800 students in the North East tested positive for Covid-19 in the week from 1-7 October.

Newcastle University recorded 1,003 Covid-19 infections among students, up from 94 in the previous week. 

Northumbria University announced it saw 619 positive student cases, up from 560 recorded the week before.

A further 219 cases have been confirmed among Durham University students, with 50 cases each at St Mary’s College and Collingwood College. 

A spokeswoman from Newcastle University said that the “overwhelming majority” of the cases had come from “social and residential settings”. 

Nine of the local authority areas in the North East, including Newcastle and Durham, are already subject to tougher Covid-19 restrictions. 

Durham University has asked students at St Mary’s College and Collingwood College who are currently not self-isolating to only attend university-managed activities and remain on campus for the next seven days to try and reduce the spread of Covid-19. 

In a joint statement, Newcastle and Northumbria Universities announced the majority of teaching would be delivered online from 8 October for a three-week period, with a review scheduled on 23 October. 

All programmes will be delivered online except where present in-person sessions are essential to meet programme learning outcomes or satisfy accreditation requirements

– Professor Chris Day

Professor Chris Day, vice-chancellor and president of Newcastle University, said: “All programmes will be delivered online except where present in-person sessions are essential to meet programme learning outcomes or satisfy accreditation requirements. 

“Student services will continue to provide support for students on and off campus”. 

Part of Newcastle University’s support package for self-isolating students includes a £50 food voucher and a free click and deliver service from the Co-op. 

Jeremy Cook, pro-vice-chancellor at Durham University, said: “All students living in Colleges and who are in self-isolation will receive ongoing welfare support including support with essential services and supplies, and continued access to their education online.” 

Northumbria University announced it is making “extensive efforts” in providing support for self-isolating students through online concierge services or delivering food parcels to students by staff and the Students’ Union. 

Northumbria University’s decision to move teaching online has been welcomed by the University and College Union (UCU) after its members threatened to ballot for industrial action over “Covid health and safety failings”. 

UCU regional official Iain Owens said: “Newcastle’s universities need to make sure staff are given the resources to provide students with a high quality remote learning experience and undertake careful longer term planning.”

“They also need to fully consult with unions before any return to in-person teaching, and not rush to get staff and students back onto campus.”

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