On Wednesday 7 July 2021, Helen Pidd (North of England Editor) and Niamh McIntyre reported on the Guardian that the five current hotspots of Covid-19 hotspots in England also have some of the largest student populations in England. Nottingham's Lenton & Dunkirk MSOA is one of the five, sitting alongside Leeds Hyde Park at the lower end of infections, with Oxford Central topping the list, followed by Durham City, then North Jesmond in Newcastle upon Tyne. Vaccination rates and problems for students having to self-isolate at the end of tenancies were also featured in the article.

Student areas record highest rates of new Covid infections in England

Five latest hotspots are home to large student populations, with few having received second vaccine dose

England’s current five Covid hotspots are home to some of the largest student populations as the Delta variant rips through young, largely unvaccinated communities.

Those aged 18 to 20 were offered their first vaccination on 17 June, meaning only clinically vulnerable undergraduates had received two doses when cases started to soar in student cities.

Central Oxford, where an estimated 69% of the population are students, this week recorded the highest infection rate in England – 2,144 cases per 100,000 people, almost 10 times the national average of 239 per 100,000. Across the city, 80% of the cases were in the 18-29 age group, according to Ansaf Azhar, Oxfordshire county council’s director for public health.

The Guardian analysed data on cases and vaccinations for middle-layer super output areas (MSOAs) – smaller administrative areas within a local authority.

Durham City, where 73% of residents are students, according to data from the House of Commons Library, has the second-highest infection rates. On Monday, the area had 2,011 cases per 100,000 people.

The large numbers of students self-isolating caused huge problems on 1 July, the day student tenancies typically end across many English cities.

Deri Humphry, a Durham history student, said he was “still fuming” after his landlord evicted him and four flatmates last week despite him receiving a positive result on 30 June. The whole household was told by test and trace to isolate for 10 days but the landlord refused to let them stay.

“He said if we paid £100 a night, all five of us could go and stay in an unfurnished place with only three bedrooms,” said Humphry. “We called the university, council and trading standards asking if it was legal for him to evict us but no one could seem to give us a straight answer. We thought we were doing the right thing by wanting to stay put, but the landlord was having none of it.”

In Leeds, where the student district of Hyde Park recorded 1,524 cases per 100,000 on Monday, Leeds University let isolating students stay on in halls beyond the end of their tenancy agreements in order to complete their quarantine.

Quite how many of the Leeds cases are students is unclear, with many students having gone home for the summer. Figures collected by Leeds University on 4 July suggested there were 67 active cases of students and staff who had tested positive in the preceding 10 days.

James Lewis, the leader of Leeds city council, said he believed the high rates in Hyde Park were not solely down to students, but also to the high numbers of houses of multiple occupancy. “A lot of young people live in shared houses and many work in hospitality, which means they are more likely to come into contact with the virus,” he said.

North Jesmond in Newcastle recorded the third-highest infection rates on Monday, with 1,666.8 cases per 100,000 people. About 56% of the residents there are students.

In a statement, Oxford University said: “We have been monitoring closely the recent rise in cases, which reflects the pattern seen across the country, and responding accordingly. We have issued guidance to students, and those testing positive are told to immediately self-isolate in Oxford, receive appropriate welfare support from their university and colleges, and all their contacts are also tested. We are working closely with Public Health England and the local councils, following their advice and supporting their drive to increase testing and vaccination across the city.”

While Oxford, Leeds, Newcastle and Durham have had strong numbers of young people coming forward for their first vaccinations, in other student cities take-up has been generally low.

In the Cathedral and Kelham area of Sheffield, for example, just 32% of all adults have received their first vaccination, compared with the England average of 78%. An estimated 66.5% of the local population are students.

Amanda Healy, the director of public health for County Durham, said: “We are aware that, as with other university cities, Durham has an infection rate higher than the national average, and this needs to be viewed in the context of the extremely high proportion of young people in its population, who have only recently become eligible for vaccination.

“We have worked with other agencies to deliver vaccination pop-ups in the city alongside increasing access to testing and other measures to reduce transmission; and Durham recently had the third highest number of under-25s to have received a first vaccine in the country.”

Lorna Smith, the assistant director of public health at Newcastle city council, said: “Our data shows that the majority of cases are among the largely unvaccinated under-25s, who also account for much of the mixing that takes place in social and household settings.

“We know wards such as North Jesmond have a high percentage of its population that fit into this age bracket, and whilst many of our city’s students have returned home for the summer, a small number are still in Newcastle working, studying or supporting the city’s hospitals, testing and vaccination centres.”

Student areas record highest rates of new Covid infections in England | Students | The Guardian

Editor's Note: Data for the 7-day period ending 30 June 2021, for the Lenton & Dunkirk MSOA were recorded as 173 total cases (up by 141, i.e. 440.6%) with a case rate of 1,585.1/100,000 people. Data for the 7-day period ending on 3 July 2021 were recorded as 135 total cases (up by 40, i.e. 42.1%) with  case rate of 1,236.9/100,000 people. For regularly updated data on cases and vacciantions, visit

Interactive map of cases | Coronavirus in the UK