James Gant (Daily Mail MailonLine Tuesday 6 October 2020) reported that Manchester's two largest universities will teach students only on-line from tomorrow. Also reported was that around 4,000 students at 50 universities across the country have now tested positive for Covid-19. ...

ALL lectures for thousands of students at Manchester's two universities will be held ONLINE from tomorrow due to Covid - as 4,000 undergraduates have now tested positive for virus across UK

  • University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University are affected
  • Bosses will detail the move to staff and pupils at the two institutions later today
  • The decision was made alongside the city's public health department and PHE
  • It comes as 4,000 students at 50 universities across the test positive for Covid

Manchester's two largest universities will teach students only online from tomorrow to try to stem the spiralling number of coronavirus cases.

The University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University will detail the move to staff and pupils later today.

The decision was made alongside the city's public health department and Public Health England and will last until at least October 30.

It comes as nearly 4,000 students at more than 50 universities across the UK have tested positive for coronavirus - with Durham the latest to see a surge in cases.

Outbreaks have been sweeping campuses and forcing students to isolate despite the new term only starting weeks ago.

Other universities to report a spike in infections include:

  • Newcastle's universities have about 850 students positive and they are all now self-isolating;
  • Nearly 500 people were revealed to have tested positive for coronavirus at Sheffield University; 
  • More than 400 students and eight staff members have it at the University of Nottingham;
  • Queen's University Belfast is 'closely monitoring' 166 students and staff who have the disease; 
  • And 177 University of Liverpool staff and students have tested positive as of last week.

The only courses at the two Manchester universities that will be taught in person are 'accredited and professional programmes, for on-campus laboratory, clinical and practice-based teaching'.

Director of Public Health at Manchester Council David Regan told the MeN: 'This is the right thing to do and supports our approach using data and a local approach to contain outbreaks so that we reduce the possibility of further infection.

'More online teaching will protect staff, students and the wider community, which is what we want and need.

'As people will no doubt know from the news our current Covid figures are high - and in particular the rate of infection in the last seven days for our 17-21 year-old category is almost six times higher than in the rest of the community.

'Today's announcement, plus following all our local restrictions means that we have a consistent approach.'

Durham University released its figures as part of its weekly update on the number of cases reported by students or staff through its own system.

A total of 69 students and one member of staff had the virus in the week leading up to October 4 at the prestigious institution.

It takes the overall total of cases since the start of term to 79, made up of three members of staff and 76 students.

A university spokesman said: 'Since the beginning of Term 1 we have had a small, but growing, number of positive cases which were handled in conjunction with Durham County Council Public Health colleagues.

'All affected staff and students are self-isolating in accordance with NHS guidance, and are receiving our full support.

'When we are notified by students or staff of a suspected or confirmed case of Covid-19, or that someone is having to self-isolate because of close contact or being in the same household as someone else with a confirmed case of Covid-19, we follow detailed processes and procedures to ensure their health and wellbeing, and to reduce onward transmission.

'When a member of the university community tests positive, they self-isolate with their household in line with Government guidelines.

'We are in regular contact with Durham County Council, Public Health England and other partners to make sure that we are sharing information (not personal information) about the local situation and responding to the latest guidance.'

It comes as more than 850 students at Northumbria and Newcastle universities were told to self-isolate after testing positive for coronavirus.

On October 2, Northumbria University confirmed 770 of its students have contracted Covid-19, with 78 of those displaying symptoms.

All students who have tested positive were told to self-isolate along with their flatmates and anyone they have been in contact with, the university confirmed.

A further 94 confirmed Covid-19 cases were also recorded among students at Newcastle University, bringing the city total to 864.

University and College Union (UCU) said it warned Northumbria University that it was 'far too soon for a mass return to campus'.

In a statement the UCU said: 'We told Northumbria University they had a civic duty to put the health of staff, students and the local community first and we take no pleasure in now seeing another preventable crisis play out.

'We warned last month that, given the current restrictions in the region, the direction of the infection rate and the problems with test and trace, it was clearly far too soon for a mass return to campus.'

Meanwhile nearly 500 people have tested positive for coronavirus at the University of Sheffield in a mass outbreak of the disease.

According to an online tracker on the university's website, 474 students and five staff members have tested positive for Covid-19 since September 28.

Sheffield University has around 8,000 staff members and usually hosts 29,000 students on its campus every academic year. 

A spokesman said those affected by coronavirus were following Government guidelines and that support is available.

It is understood that no whole student accommodation blocks are in lockdown at the moment.

The spokesman said: 'We recognise how difficult it is for students who are new to Sheffield and need to self-isolate because of Covid-19 cases.

'To make sure we are supporting students in the best way possible, we will contact all students who are self-isolating to check on their welfare and offer practical and emotional support.' 

The weekly coronavirus rate in Sheffield for the seven days to October 1 now stands at 233.1 new cases per 100,000 people.

There have been new fears over tighter restrictions in Sheffield after nearly 300 Covid-19 cases were recorded in a single day.

Last night the University of Nottingham revealed it had recorded 425 cases of the deadly disease, among staff and students.

A staggering 400 students and eight staff at the East Midlands institution are now self isolating.

A spokesman said the number would be 'higher than other universities' due to its unique asymptomatic testing regime.

Most of the students who had the virus lived in private accommodation but 106 were in university halls of residence and 93 were in purpose-built student flats.

The spokesperson said: 'Alongside the national Pillar 2 testing regime for people with symptoms of Covid-19, the university is also running its own asymptomatic testing programme which identifies cases earlier and more quickly.

'While this means our case data will be higher than other universities, it means that we can identify cases that otherwise would remain undetected and thereby reduce asymptomatic transmission and the number of future cases.'

Institutions in Northern Ireland are also bearing the brunt of the crisis, with Queen's University Belfast 'closely monitoring' an increase in coronavirus cases.

It has been reported that 166 students and staff at the south Belfast university have tested positive for Covid-19.

Around 25,000 students started back last month for the new academic year.

In a statement the university said the safety and wellbeing of staff and students is its 'first priority', and a 'range of interventions' have been made across campus.

'The university is liaising with the Public Health Agency (PHA) on a daily basis to ensure the university is continuing to apply the correct measures to limit the spread of infection,' a spokesperson said.

'Although the number of staff and students affected remains a minority, the increase in number of positive cases is a concern and the university fully appreciates that this may cause anxiety for students, staff, and their families.

'Queen's is closely monitoring the situation and will not hesitate to apply additional measures to further protect members of our community as considered necessary in discussions with the PHA.'

The university went on to detail that evidence gathered through contact tracing has indicated that transmission of the virus is happening in social or accommodation settings.

Sinn Fein MLA John O'Dowd has urged the university authorities to ensure their messaging is clear.

'Queen's University must do all within its powers to ensure students in its accommodation are informed of all procedures in place to keep students and others safe,' he said.

'Effective communication is key and I would urge university authorities to ensure their messaging is clear and being received and understood by students.'

Mr O'Dowd also urged Economy Minister Diane Dodds and Health Minister Robin Swann to bring forward Covid-19 advice for students through the Public Health Agency.

Back across the Irish Sea, Liverpool University has seen 177 staff and students have tested positive as of last week.

The University of Manchester - where there have been 382 cases of Covid-19 since September 21 - apologised for 'conflicting information' given to students from some residential staff about isolation.

The BBC reported students were told a member of an isolating home could go to the shops for food if they could not get deliveries, and they could use laundry services as long as they wore a mask.

A university spokesman said: 'The safety and wellbeing of our students is our main concern. We are proud of the work carried out by our Residential Life Team who live in halls alongside our students.

'If some members of that team have issued conflicting information, we apologise. All students have now been sent a single clear message.'

The highest number of cases among students and staff appear to be in northern cities in England as well as Scottish universities - which reopened first - but there have been cases at institutions across the UK.

There have been 47 cases among students at Oxford Brookes university, while at Sussex University one member of staff and 10 students are self-isolating after testing positive for Covid-19, a survey showed.

But not all cases among students and staff have been reported 'on campus'. Some have occurred in local communities or in private halls of residence.

Over 4,000 Covid-19 cases have now been identified among university students and staff.

Around 56 universities across the UK have had at least one confirmed case of Covid-19, an analysis of university responses and media reports suggested this week.

More than 2,600 positive cases of Covid-19 were identified at these universities, the analysis found, before more cases were confirmed today and yesterday.

Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, vice president for higher education at the National Union of Students (NUS), said: 'The rise of Covid rates at universities needs drastic action now.

'It is deeply irresponsible to continue with business as usual and the government and universities must be honest with students about what the pandemic can mean for their university experience.'

She said: 'Fully accessible online education must become a reality immediately and we need digital investment at a national scale to make this happen.'

Speaking at an independent Sage meeting on Friday, Professor Christina Pagel from University College London (UCL) said: 'I think we have to acknowledge that students need to be supported at university and it shouldn't kind of be a blame game.'

She added: 'If you stuck me in the house with seven strangers, I'm much more likely to get Covid than I am where I am now, and I think that has to be acknowledged.'

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi), said: 'It is a stressful and difficult time for students at the moment and no one would have wished this particular start to the academic year.

'But we also need to recognise that the number of students with positive tests and also the number self-isolating is a tiny proportion of the total UK student body.

'Universities do need to support students that are self-isolating and, much - but not all - of the time, that support seems to be getting to where it is needed.'

Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), said: 'It is an outrage that ministers and universities spent the summer talking up a student experience that the science and staff said was never likely.'

She added: 'The priority for ministers now must be a support package that underwrites lost income for universities and provides vital protection for staff and students.' 

A Universities UK (UUK) spokesman said: 'The priority for all universities is to support the health and wellbeing of their students, staff and local communities and ensure that students can continue with their education during this pandemic.

'This is a very challenging time with Covid-19 cases rising in many communities.

'All universities are working in partnership with their local authorities and public health bodies to adapt to the changing local circumstances, to effectively implement outbreak response plans to protect their communities and to continue to ensure measures are in place to reduce risks.

'Where students are self-isolating, universities are taking care of both their physical and emotional wellbeing including access to testing and health care, mental health support, continuing learning online, safe social interaction, food deliveries, laundry, and financial support.'

A Government spokesman said: 'We recognise this has been a really challenging time for students, particularly for those having to self-isolate at the start of their university journey. We have asked universities to make sure those that are isolating have all the support they need.

'Universities are well prepared for a local outbreak, and we have worked with them to help draw up plans for measures in the event of positive cases on campus, or a rise in cases locally.'

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