CORONAVIRUS 2020
 

A number of relevant articles and news stories are posted on the 'NewsDesk' section of the Home Page. Although links to these are also given on this page, links to additional articles relating to Covid-19 relevant to the concerns of local communities in university towns and cities are also listed at the end of this page. This is by no means a fully comprehensive list, but it is intended to provide a  quick guide to what is being written and said as the autumn progresses.

 

COMMUNITY CONCERNS ABOUT COVID-19 & HIGHER EDUCATION:
A Letter from Nottingham residents 

Against the background of the Covid-19 pandemic, the widespread problems experienced by residents as students have returned to collect the belongings they left behind when lockdown began in March, had heightened residents'  concerns about the impact on them and their families and friends when the next academic year begins in September.

Sunday 28 June 2020: 'A Letter Expressing Concerns About the End of the Academic Year 2019-2020 & the New Academic Year 2020-2021' compiled from the experiences and observations of representatives of the Arboretum Residents' & Tenants' Association (ARTA), the Berrymede (North Sherwood Street) Neighbourhood Group, the Portwell (Portland Road-Cromwell Street) Residents' Group, the Lenton Drives & Neighbours Residents' Association (LDNRA) and the Nottingham Action Group on HMOs (NAG) was sent to, amongst others, the Vice-Chancellors and Registrars of Nottingham University and Nottingham Trent University, MPs for the Nottingham South and Nottingham East Constituencies, the Leader of Nottingham City Council, the Council's Portfolio Holder for Communities, Ward Councillors, and Nottinghamshire Police. Since then, the Councillors and residents of Beeston Central Ward have also added their signatures to the letter.

The letter can be downloaded by following this link:

A_Letter_from_Residents_Amended_30.06.2020.pdf

Sunday 9 August 2020: A reply from Nottingham University to this letter was sent by the university's Off Campus Student Affairs Manager. In his covering note he pointed out that: '... As I’m sure you can appreciate, planning for the 2020/21 start of term in these unprecedented times is no small task. The University’s paramount objective is to ensure the health and safety of students and wider community as we manage the transition of new and returning students to Nottingham. 

The University has been working with many and various partners including but not limited to Nottingham City Council, Broxtowe Borough Council, Nottinghamshire Police and Public Health England to ensure a safe and smooth return of students to campus and the wider community.

In recent weeks there have been many planning meetings resulting in important outcomes, but there is still a significant amount of work to be done. With this in mind, the details within this response are not complete and exhaustive but will give a good indication of how plans are developing. Most importantly, it is an opportune time for you to review our progress and intentions and give further feedback. The University are committed listening and working with all interested parties, including local residents and representatives to meet our objective of ensuring students return to Nottingham this forthcoming academic year safely and with consideration and respect for their peers and the wider community. ...'

The Off Campus Student Manager also pointed out that the attached document was his initial response and that, for clarity, he had referened and mirrored the format of the original letter.

That response can be downloaded here:

Concerns_about_the_End_of_the_Academic_Year_19-20__the_New_Academic_Year_20-21_-_Response.pdf

 

SAGE Papers on Higher Education & COVID-19:
National HMO Lobby Response

The NAG is one of around 60 groups which, together, form the National HMO Lobby. One of the Lobby's strengths has always been that its members, by exchanging experiences and information, are able to work together to highlight problems of common concern. By doing so, they support one another and help to give a voice and visibility to people who share their concerns about what is happening in their neighbourhoods, to their families, friends and neighbours.

Papers published by SAGE on Higher Education and Covid-19 highlighted some serious misconceptions about the threat of Covid-19 iin relation to universities. As a result, and with input from members, the Co-ordinator has prepared a response on behalf of the HMO Lobby. This can be read by following the link:

National HMO Lobby Response to SAGE Papers on Higher Education & Covid-19

Monday 10 August 2020: More recently, in the light of comments made by Professor Michael Otsuka of the London School of Economics, correspondence with him associated with the HMO Lobby's response has resulted in this Twitter thread being posted by him:

https://twitter.com/MikeOtsuka/status/1292787442400006145

Tuesday 11 August 2020: Professor Otsuka has now updated this thread to include a link to the National HMO Lobby's response:

https://twitter.com/MikeOtsuka/status/1293190254774509569

Independent SAGE Consultation Statement on Universities in the Context of SARS-CoV-2

On Thursday 20 August 2020, the Independent SAGE published its Report 9: Independent SAGE-Behaviour Group Consultation Statement on Universities in the context of SARS-CoV-2. The report can be downloaded by following this link: Independent_SAGE_Universities_20-08-2020.pdf. 

Principles for Managing SARS-CoV-2 Transmission Associated with Higher Education 

On Friday 4 September 2020SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) published a paper prepared by the Task and Finish Group on Higher Education/Further Education outlining principles for managing transmission of  SARS-CoV-2 in Higher Education establishments.

The Executive summary of the paper lists six points:

  • There is a significant risk that Higher Education (HE) could amplify local and national transmission, and this requires national oversight. It is highly likely that there will be significant outbreaks associated with HE, and asymptomatic transmission may make these harder to detect. Outbreak response requires both local plans and coordinated national oversight and decision-making.

  • It is essential to develop clear strategies for testing and tracing, with effective support to enable isolation. Universities are good locations to pilot approaches such as population case detection (PCD). Enhanced testing in response to suspected outbreaks is likely to be beneficial in detecting and preventing ongoing transmission.

  • Safe provision of student education needs to be based on a hierarchy of risk.This includes reducing in-person interaction, segmentation of students and environmental controls, including mitigating aerosol transmission risk through ventilation and use of face coverings.

  • Accommodation and social interactions are likely to be a high-risk environment for transmission to occur. Strategies to mitigate transmission risk include segmentation of students to co-locate courses or year groups, and good communication on behaviour and hygiene in household and social environments.

  • There need to be specific strategies to consider the wider physical and mental health of students and staff, beyond COVID-19. This will include maximising the influenza vaccination programme to minimise co-infection risks and providing support to mental health programmes.

  • Communication strategies are a critical part of minimising transmission risks associated with HE. Guidance on how to behave is more likely to be adhered to if people understand the reasons they are asked to take certain actions, and if it is co- produced with the staff and students who will be affected by it.

 

The full paper can be dowloaded here:

S0728_Principles_for_Managing_SARS-CoV-2_Transmission_Associated_with_Higher_Education_.pdf

On Wednesday 30 September 2020 Government updated its Guidance: Higher Education: Reopening Buildings and Campuses which can be downloaded by following this link:

Higher education: reopening buildings and campuses - GOV.UK


On Saturday 18 October 2020, an interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme with Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford, has been reported in the Daily Telegraph ...

Schools and universities 'may have to close' during circuit breaker

The UK should impose a two week circuit breaker to "get on top" of a rapid surge in new infections, according to the Government's testing tsar, and closing schools and universities may now be unavoidable.

Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford, said that coronavirus "numbers are actually pretty eye watering in some parts of the country", and it will be almost impossible to bring transmission down by "biting around the edges".

"I can see very little way of getting on top of this without some kind of a circuit breaker," he told BBC Radio Four this morning. 

Sir John added that closing schools and universities may now be a necessity. 

"I think there will be every effort to keep schools open, but just to paint the picture: there are universities in this country which have 50, 60, 70 per cent of their kids in quarantine. I mean oh my God. What kind of a university is that? This is not a good place to be. 

"So if in the end we have to take kids out for two weeks, calm it all down, and then start again, ideally embedded in a much more rigorous testing regime, than that's maybe what we will have to do," he said. 

His comments come after Britain's biggest teachers' union backed a circuit breaker and urged that secondary schools and colleges are closed for an extended two-week half-term.

Calls for a two week circuit breaker have been gathering momentum all week, with experts suggesting it is the only way to reduce transmission and "buy time" to fix the UK's faltering test, trace and isolate system - which is having only a "marginal impact on transmission", according to Sage.

Schools may have to shut for two weeks to 'get on top of' cases, says Government adviser

 COVID-19 'NEWS DESK' ARTICLES

Universities accused of pressuring staff to work on campus | Education | The Guardian

Coronavirus infection rates in England's worst-hit student areas have HALVED in a fortnight | Daily Mail Online

Return of students to US colleges probably led to surge in Covid cases | World news | The Guardian

The Nottingham Action Group :: The Day After Students Fined £40,000 Police Shut Down More Illegal Student Parties

Nottingham students fined £40,000 for throwing house party and told police stop 'spoiling their fun' - Nottinghamshire Live

'We're doing the best we can' - Nottingham students on how virus spike is not all down to them - Nottinghamshire Live

Coronavirus: UK facing 'tough' Christmas, Sage scientist warns - BBC News

UK universities accused of keeping students at all costs until after fee deadline | Education | The Guardian

Fears grow student Covid infections will spread into local areas in England and Wales | Education | The Guardian

Coronavirus: Students fined for throwing party to celebrate negative test results | The Independent

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/10/10/return-students-caused-inevitable-spike-covid-cases/

Nottingham Lockdown: Public health boss outlines reason for 'sudden rise' in Covid-19 cases - Nottinghamshire Live

Coronavirus infection rates in student areas 'up to seven times higher than elsewhere' | Daily Mail Online

Nottingham Covid surge: Government told to act - BBC News

Coronavirus: Nottingham post box 'filled to brim' with test kits - BBC News

University students urged to 'moderate behaviour' as Nottingham is set to go into lockdown - Nottinghamshire Live

Nearly 4,000 students have Covid: 70 Durham University undergraduates are latest to test positive | Daily Mail Online

Current coronavirus restrictions ‘insufficient’ to stop ‘rapidly changing situation’ in Nottingham - Nottinghamshire Live

Live updates as Nottingham faces 'decisive action' over soaring Covid-19 rates - Nottinghamshire Live

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8807935/University-cities-including-Sheffield-Leeds-Oxford-brink-new-local-lockdowns.html

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-54423727

https://wonkhe.com/blogs/if-campuses-are-at-30-capacity-why-are-halls-at-100/

Public health boss addresses local lockdown concern after surge in Nottingham Covid-19 cases - Nottinghamshire Live

More than 650 cases of Covid-19 recorded in Nottingham in one day - Nottinghamshire Live

I saw up close the trials of university life in a pandemic. We should have done better... | Will Hutton | Opinion | The Guardian

The 18 areas of Nottingham which have had 50 or more coronavirus cases - Nottinghamshire Live

Freshers ignore social distancing as they cram on pavement outside club | Daily Mail Online

University investigation into 'gatherings' around student flats in Radford - Nottinghamshire Live

Around 20 University of Nottingham students split up on campus by officials with others self-isolating - Nottinghamshire Live

Rise in confirmed coronavirus cases in Nottingham's student hotspots - Nottinghamshire Live

Coronavirus outbreak at Swansea University linked to superspreader who attended house party and infected 32 students | London Evening Standard

Covid: About 40 universities report coronavirus cases - BBC News

Covid: Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden defends students' university return - BBC News

Halt in-person university teaching until test and trace fixed, union urges | Education | The Guardian

Universities should be two-thirds empty to avoid Covid spikes, says expert | Education | The Guardian

Universities are 'high risk setting' where Covid can spread rapidly - Nottinghamshire Live

Hancock refuses to rule out Christmas student lockdown - BBC News

Ministers 'must tell students to stay on campus over Christmas' to prevent Covid-19 outbreaks

Social distancing 'ignored' at crowded Exeter student event - Devon Live

Students locked down after illegal parties at UK universities | Education | The Guardian

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-54205401

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/police-frustration-as-55-belfast-holyland-covid-notices-issued-after-house-party-visits-39542222.html

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/sep/20/heavy-drinking-nuisances-university-students-covid-marshals-patrols-campuses-mass-gatherings-pandemic?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8752313/Residents-university-towns-cities-fear-return-students-cause-Covid-spikes.html

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8742483/Leeds-freshers-shun-social-distancing-droves-hit-town-week-university-term.html

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/sep/20/town-v-gown-tensions-rise-over-threat-of-covid-infection-rate-as-new-terms-starts?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-54209452

As the New Academic Year is About to Start Nottingham's Universities & Police Outline Measures to Support New Coronavirus Regulations

Covid-19: Nottingham University Student Fined £10,000 Failed to Shut Down Party When Asked To Do So

Party 'Got Out of Hand' Says Student After Police Fine the Organiser £10,000

Universities Ask Students to Sign Covid Pledges as Residents' Groups Fear New Infection Wave

Police Warn Not to Treat Week-end Before the 'Rule of Six' as a Party

Reckless Resident Faces £10,000 Fine for Hosting Large House Party

Coronavirus: Nottingham City Council Community Protection Uniformed Services Response to Revised Lockdown Regulations

Coronavirus: Country At "Critical Moment" As Students Return to Universities

Government Scientists Warn of Spread of Covid-19 - Like 'Freshers Flu'

Covid-19: Fears Over Spread as 'UK's Biggest Annual Migration' About to Take Place

Government Accused of 'Encouraging a Public Health Crisis'

Coronavirus: University Return 'Could Spark Covid Avalanche'

'No Social Distancing': US College Towns Close Bars as Covid-19 Cases Surge

Nottingham Public Health Director Expects Coronavirus Cases to Rise

Mass Migration of Students in the UK Is Not Simply a University Problem

Covid-19: Will Closed Nightclubs Mean More Student House Parties?

Enhanced Testing For Coronavirus for Students to Prevent Covid-19 Outbreaks 

Independent SAGE Report Advises Compulsory Covid-19 Testing of Students

Covid-19: US University Sees Spike After Return of Students

Scotland: University Reopenings & Covid-19 Represent a Risk

Covid-19 & University Re-opening: New Scientific Advisory Committee Set Up

Oxford Professor Fears That Student Arrival on Campus Will Trigger Covid-19 Outbreaks

Covid-19 & the Return of Students: Has Little Attention Been Given to Residents' Concerns?

Coronavirus: SAGE Paper Looks At Risk of Spread of Covid-19 & University Students' Migration

UK Government Issues Updated Guidance on Covid-19 for University Halls & HMOs

Will Universities Be the Next Covid-19 Tinderboxes?