Covid-19: UK confirms 9,000 student cases in past week

Universities minister Michelle Donelan says outbreaks confirmed on 68 campuses

October 12, 2020
Michelle Donelan

About 9,000 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed among students in the UK within the past week, the government has said.

Michelle Donelan, the universities minister in the Westminster government, told the House of Commons on 12 October that cases had been reported on 68 campuses across the country.

She said that these institutions had reported about 9,000 coronavirus cases within the past seven days, out of a nationwide student population of approximately 2 million.

On 12 October the University of Nottingham published data showing that it had recorded 1,510 cases among students in the week ending 9 October, plus another 20 cases affecting staff.

Ms Donelan, who had been criticised by Labour shadow minister Emma Hardy for the lack of official data on coronavirus outbreaks on campuses, said that a new data regime involving the English regulator, the Office for Students, would be launched soon. This would be “much more transparent”, Ms Donelan said.

The minister rejected calls from some Labour MPs to halt face-to-face teaching across the country to prevent the spread of Covid-19, warning that this would amount to “punishing young people”.

“We do not believe it would be right to put the lives and the academic journeys of students on hold,” she said.

Ms Donelan also criticised reports of some students in self-isolation being charged large amounts for food by their universities, saying that reports of £18-a-day food parcels were “quite simply, outrageous”. The minister said that students in catered halls should get free food during self-isolation and that other students should have access to free food or meals “at a price that can be afforded” on student budgets.

Ms Donelan said “no university should seek to profit from students self-isolating” and that she was writing to institutions to make this point.

Among other institutions reporting Covid-19 case data on 12 October, the University of Bristol said that it had 393 confirmed cases among students, plus three staff cases. The University of Oxford said that it had recorded 61 positive tests in the past week, and 91 since 20 August; while the University of Warwick put its total at 216.

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