Durham County Council has warned Durham University of “potential clusters” of Covid-19 cases among students, leading to a number of college communications.
Collingwood students received an email earlier this week, stating that “NHS Track and Trace is showing what could be a potential cluster of positive Covid-19 cases across a number of student households in Durham”. Other colleges and JCRs have sent similar communications to students.
Palatinate understands that the University – which cannot itself access NHS Track and Trace data – was contacted by the County Council.
Durham’s own figures only record cases which are reported through Banner Self Service, and are therefore an underestimate. Nevertheless, they indicate an upward trend. After a full week from 30th May to 5th June without recording a single case, the University recorded nine cases between 6th and 8th June.
Track and Trace statistics are available for Middle Super Output Areas (MSOAs), which have an average population of 7,500.
As of yesterday morning, Durham City MSOA, in which many Durham students live, had recorded eight cases in the past seven days. That represents a 300% increase on the previous week, although percentage changes with such low numbers are easily affected by sudden fluctuations.
The seven-day case rate per 100,000 in Durham City MSOA is 55.3, while in Gilesgate and Old Durham it is 38.1.
Amanda Healy, Durham County Council’s director of public health, told Palatinate: “We are aware of some confirmed coronavirus cases in Durham City including some within a small number of student households. Our first priority is the safety of all involved and we have established an outbreak control team to assess the situation, working closely with Public Health England and Durham University.
“All those who have tested positive are self-isolating, along with the rest of their households, and are receiving welfare support from the Council’s County Durham Together hub. Students who have informed Durham University of their positive test results are also receiving additional support from the university.
“We are contacting people they have been in close contact with to encourage them to get tested and to self-isolate if they receive a positive result,” she went on to say.
“Together with Durham University we are offering advice and support to all students. We encourage students to follow government and University regulations and to inform the University if they test positive for Covid-19. Reporting in this way helps us to work proactively with the University and Public Health England to manage cases on campus.
“Lockdown restrictions are being eased but it is vital everyone continues to follow public health advice. Remember to wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, cover your face when required, keep rooms well ventilated and stay at home if you have symptoms or are waiting for test results.”
Image: O Elmon