This feed will be updated with the latest developments in Durham regarding Covid-19 as they happen during Michaelmas Term.
19th November, 5:30pm: Lateral flow test bookings available to all symptomless students from tomorrow
In emails circulated by college principals this afternoon, the University today announced that all students without any Covid-19 symptoms will be able to book lateral flow tests (LFT) from 10 a.m. tomorrow. The tests, which return a result via email within “one to two hours”, will first be available on Tuesday 24th November and will be available seven days per week.
The booking system on DUO will become accessible once a student has passed a 10 minute tutorial and quiz on the same website, and the University recommends reserving two tests seven days apart, with the second occurring as close to one’s scheduled return home as possible, in order to maximise reliability.
If either of their results is positive, a student will have to self-isolate immediately and their college will be informed of the result.
LFT testing will be provided via three testing sites in Durham City: The Racecourse on Green Lane; the newly-erected marquee on Palace Green; and The Sports & Wellbeing Park at Maiden Castle. The first two of those will close after the last test is conducted on Thursday 3rd December, whereas the Maiden Castle site will remain open until at least Monday 14th December, with an extension possible depending on demand.
Members of Stephenson, University and Van Mildert colleges have been part of a pilot scheme in recent weeks.
5th November, 4pm: Students now required to wear face coverings in Bill Bryson study spaces
The University today changed its policy to mean that face coverings must now be worn at all times, including in study spaces – unless there is a medical exemption. Students working in the Bill Bryson Library today were told of the change through an announcement on the loudspeakers. This change also applies to staff. It appears that the change has been made to allow access to continue through the second lockdown.
4th November, 4:30pm: all music and theatre activities between households to cease during lockdown
Durham Student Theatre (DST) has announced that all of its in-person activities between households that were due to take place during the impending lockdown will be cancelled.
In a message sent by the Head of Student Theatre, Kate Barton, to all theatre company presidents, it was confirmed that all music and theatre activity between households must not take place for the next four weeks during the national lockdown, which will begin tomorrow and is due to end on the 2nd December. This will apply to any in-person scheduled rehearsals, recorded performances or auditions.
Activity within households will be allowed to continue, and more information is due to be circulated on Friday.
This comes after a nation-wide lockdown was announced by the government last week, meaning all non-essential businesses, including retail, hospitality, and entertainment venues, as well as leisure and sport venues, are required to close from Thursday 5th November.
4th November, 2pm: Face-to-face teaching to continue during lockdown despite strike threat
In a statement released today, Durham University has announced it will continue face-to-face teaching in line with the national lockdown set to be introduced tomorrow.
The news comes five days after the Durham branch of the University and College Union (UCU), which represents teaching staff in higher education, voted to initiate strike action and action short of strike (ASOS) if face-to-face teaching is not suspended.
In the statement, Durham University said that “Our Covid-19 case numbers have fallen substantially in recent weeks and we have seen no evidence of transmission from students to staff in classroom settings.”
It then went on to say: “Having considered feedback from staff, students and others, we have decided that face to face teaching activity should continue, with the aim of supporting the education, mental health and wellbeing of our students.”
2nd November: Durham Uni libraries to stay open despite lockdown
Durham University Libraries “business as usual” during lockdown In an internal email seen by Palatinate this morning. Library staff were told not to expect any significant changes following the government lockdown announcement. The new lockdown, starting on Thursday 5th November, allows Universities to continue to stay open.
Currently students can access the Bill Bryson, Teaching and Learning Centres and Leazes Road for bookable study spaces. In tweets this afternoon the university also confirmed that some face to face teaching would continue.
27th October: Durham City records highest number nationally of new cases over the past seven days
Durham City reported the highest number of positive Covid-19 cases in the country over the last seven days, out of places for which statistics are available.
The data, from Sunday 25th, comes from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). England and Wales are divided into “Middle Super Output Areas” (MSOAs), each with a population of around 7,200, to allow localised comparisons.
Durham City MSOA recorded 304 cases in the seven days to Sunday 25th; the second highest in the country, “Loughborough – University” recorded 164. All of the four MSOAs with the highest number of cases contain a high student population, and the three excluding Durham City have “university” in their MSOA name.
24th October: Bill Bryson Library opening hours extended
The University has announced that the weekend opening hours for the Bill Bryson Library will be extended from this week. The Library will now be open for Browse and Borrow and Stay and Study services from 8am-6am, seven days a week.
Students and staff can book four-hour-long time slots to browse and check out books or to study. Bookings can be made individually or as a household.Library users can book up to four timesolts for Browse and Borrow per week and can use the Stay and Study service up to two days a week, and bookings can be made at any venue where study space is available.
The Hotel Indigo is also available as a study space and will be open from 8am-6am. The Teaching and Learning Centre is open from 8am-9pm. Library users are required to wear a face covering at all times when using the library.
23rd October: Livers-in at Stephenson and Van Mildert invited to take part in Covid-19 testing trial
Students living at Stephenson and Van Mildert Colleges are being invited to take part in a pilot of a new Covid-19 testing technology, amidst a rising number of cases at the colleges.
The Lateral Flow Test (LFT) is one of a number of new testing technologies for Covid-19 currently that is being piloted across the UK. It is hoped it will help identify those most at risk of spreading Covid-19, break the chains of transmission and reduce the infection rate.
The test aims to identify whether an individual has high enough levels of the Covid-19 virus in their body to make them infectious to others. This includes asymptomatic cases.
The initiative is being developed by the University in partnership with the Department for Health and Social Care, the University of Oxford and Public Health England.
The clinical testing phases have been completed. The next phase of the pilot, involving Durham University, is aimed at developing understanding of where to best use this technology and how it could be operationalised.
Staff and students will receive training in how to take and process the test, and read the result. The test involves applying a swab to the throat and nose. The sample is processed by the user and the results are available in 20 to 30 minutes.
Initially, all students living in college accommodation at Van Mildert and Stephenson Colleges, plus all staff working at those two Colleges, will be offered the opportunity to participate in the LFT pilot. This will commence next week.
Students and staff at the two Colleges involved will receive further information shortly. They will be able to opt in to the scheme, and can withdraw at any time.
Jeremy Cook, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience) at Durham University, said: “Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Durham University has acted with the health, safety and wellbeing of our students, staff and the communities of which we are part as our top priority, and we will continue to do so.
“Since being invited to participate in the LFT pilot, we have liaised closely with local and national partners and student leaders to ensure that our involvement is in the best interests of our students, staff and our County and region’s effort to reduce the spread of Covid-19.”
Professor Jacqui Ramagge, Executive Dean for the Faculty of Science at Durham University and project sponsor, said: “We look forward to testing beginning shortly. As a responsible University, we are keen to do everything we can to support the local, national and international effort to reduce the spread of Covid-19 and we are proud to be involved.
“We continue to urge all members of our community to follow all Government and University guidance on Covid-19, which is available at www.durham.ac.uk/coronavirus.”
23rd October: Durham University worst Covid-19 rate for universities in UK, despite fall in cases
Despite a steady decrease in cases, Durham University has the 5th worst number of total Covid-19 cases among UK universities, and the highest number of cases as a percentage of staff and students, according to data compiled by the University and College Union (UCU).
Around 7.5% of students and staff have reported having Covid-19 to the University, higher than any other university, based on available information.
A total of 1,745 cases of Covid-19 have been reported to the University by students and staff as of 22nd October. 377 cases were reported over the last week, including nine staff.
The Chronicle reported that Durham City has been identified as a Covid-19 hotspot in the UK, according to Government figures, largely due to students contracting the virus.
Durham University has around 4,000 staff members and 20,500 students. Around 12% of students are currently studying entirely online for Michaelmas term.
23rd October: Two more colleges open bars to livers out
St John’s and Collingwood College have opened their bars to those living outside college accommodation.
In an email to students, Collingwood College Bar Steward, Chris Noade, confirmed that from this Saturday, The Stag’s Head will be open to livers-out. The bar will only be open to Collingwood students.
Noade stressed the importance of students sticking to Covid regulations, saying: “the only way The Stag’s Head can remain open to all of our college members is if we all work together to keep it a safe environment.”
St. John’s College bar, Linton Bar, will be open to livers out from today, every day other than Tuesday.
Both college bars will follow Covid-regulations, meaning students will be required to pre-book, and cannot enter the bars in a group larger than six people.
Students will also only be able book a table with members of their household, and will have to wear a mask when not seated at a table. Borth bars will close at 10pm
Collingwood students were told that “repeated breaches of the regulations will result in being removed from the bar, and disciplinary action will be taken by the College in line with Durham University’s disciplinary policy for managing breaches of Covid-19 regulations.
“Where breaches of The Stag’s Head House Rules occur, the whole household may not be permitted to book a table in the bar for the remainder of the term.”
21st October, 3:30pm: Two college bars open despite fears of stricter measures
St Cuthbert’s Society Bar is now open to all members of the college. Booking is recommended, though some “walk ins” will be accepted. Tables are available for a maximum of 6 people, all of whom must be from the same household.
Cuth’s library is also now open to all members of the college who must book a slot online.
John Snow bar is now open to livers out in John Snow college.
Meanwhile, students in the Philosophy Department received an email announcing restrictions on the number of students allowed in a teaching room at any one time. Those who have to miss their seminar cannot switch to another seminar group for that week if it is at full capacity.
Some Durham SU societies will be allowed to operate face-to-face from 26th October.
16th October, 4:30pm: Two colleges opening bars to livers-out as freshers isolate
University and Josephine Butler Colleges have announced that their bar will open to those not living in its college accommodation. At Josephine Butler College, there will be “Returner/Liver Out only nights” on 21st and 23rd October, available for booking only.
University College’s bar will be open from tonight, with those living in still able to walk in. Livers out from the college must register in advance, and can only attend with other students from the same college in their household, with a maximum of six per table. The bar will operate on a table service basis only, and anyone caught breaking Covid-19 rules on mixing households will receive a ban of at least two weeks from the bar.
It comes as bars at several colleges face financial difficulty as an increasing number of students living in college accommodation self-isolate. In University College, 16 out of 23 households are isolating.
Charlie McKeever, Bar Chair at University College, told Palatinate: “Many of our returning students were forced away from college last year. Working with the new college leadership, we wanted to make a clear stance that all our students are welcome in the college grounds and of course in our bar, the Undercroft.
“Now is the ideal time to bring back livers out, as due to many livers in being in isolation, the bar is currently fairly empty allowing us to devote our time to ensuring the livers out returning to the bar for the first time can follow all the new rules which we are required to implement.”
On reopening, he said, “the ultimate decision will be down to the college leadership. However, the student Bar executive’s response will always be to keep the bar open for all regardless of the number of cases in the college, providing that we can still safely operate the bar and have sufficient staff available to manage the bar safely.
“The more that people are drinking in the Undie, the less they are drinking elsewhere and therefore the less mixing between houses, further limiting the transmission.”
16th October, 10:30am: all Hatfield first-years in isolation
21 of Hatfield’s 23 Covid-19 “households” are now isolating. All Hatfield freshers are now isolating – the remaining two households are older students who live in college.
In Josephine Butler College, members of at least eight households have tested positive, with all members of these households now isolating.
16 out of 23 households are isolating at University College.
15th October, 12:30pm: 964 new Covid-19 cases at Durham University
Durham University has reported 964 new Covid-19 cases among its students and staff in the last seven days.
Six of the cases are among staff members and the remaining 958 cases are among students. Figures are taken for all staff and students, not just those living and working on campus or in Durham City.
This brings the total number of cases reported at the University since Michaelmas term began to 1220.
In total, 11 members of staff and 1209 students have reported testing positive for the virus.
The University has stated on its website that the number of reported coronavirus cases at Durham has remained “steady” with approximately 100-150 new reported cases each day.
Last week, the University reported 222 new Covid-19 cases among the University community.
This comes after St Mary’s College and Collingwood College were asked to go into a week long lockdown after at least 50 students at each college tested positive for the virus.
The lockdown means that livers-in at both colleges are not be allowed to leave their college for a week other than to attend campus-held activities organised by the University, including in-person teaching, or essential trips such as for Covid-19 testing.
12th October: 38 households at Collingwood College isolating
At least 38 out of 42 households in Collingwood College are currently in isolation, Palatinate understands.
An email sent to livers-in at the college confirmed that “almost all” of the households at Collingwood are currently in self isolation. At least five out of the 17 households at St. Chad’s College are in isolation.
Palatinate also understands that at least six out of the 45 freps at Collingwood have tested positive for Covid-19.
Last week, it was announced that Collingwood, along with St. Mary’s College would go into a week long lockdown, meaning Livers-in at both colleges would not be allowed to leave their college for a week other than to attend campus-held activities organised by the University, including in-person teaching, or essential trips such as for Covid-19 testing.
This applies to all livers-in at the two colleges, even if they are not self-isolating or have not tested positive for the virus. This came after approximately 50 students living in each college tested positive for the virus.
11th October: Several Durham colleges employ students to deliver food to self-isolating students
Students from various colleges at Durham University have been recruited to help deliver hot food and goods to those in self-isolation. Palatinate understands that several Colleges, including St Cuthbert’s, St Mary’s, and University College have utilised their toastie bar staff and/or college bar staff to undertake the paid role.
A member of University College’s bar staff told Palatinate : “We’ve been assured that delivering these meals will not lead to us having contact with isolating households. The initiative has gone down fairly well, as it offers some income when the future of the bar is not certain.”
Meanwhile, students at St Chad’s College received an email from the Principal, Dr Margaret Masson, asking for help to deliver food from the canteen to the five households (out of a total of 17) that are currently isolating. Volunteering students will be paid according to the national living wage.
11th October: Over half of Hatfield freshers in isolation, though most as a “precautionary measure”
Hatfield College’s Senior Man, Sam Goring, has confirmed that over half of Hatfield freshers are now self isolating. 12/23 households have been told to isolate due to suspected coronavirus symptoms and require all meals delivered to them.
Despite such a high number of households in isolation, there have only been a “handful” of positive test results amongst students and many households have been told to isolate “largely as a precautionary measure.”
Mr Goring stated that the virus has forced households to lockdown across the college faster than he initially expected. Before freshers’ week, he was under the impression that there would be roughly one case arriving in every college, or even none for some colleges.
He acknowledged that there have been a few cases where households have been deliberately mixing in college, and that these students have largely been caught and are now facing disciplinary measures. He told Palatinate , “I’d like to think now that half the households are in isolation, people are realising that mixing households isn’t worth it.”
In spite of the number of households isolating within Hatfield College, the Senior Man claims that the situation is “nowhere near like it is in St Mary’s and Collingwood Colleges” and believes that Hatfield are not facing the prospect of a college-wide lockdown for the present. He does, however, admit that he “does not know where the tipping-point is.”
10th October: University “very sorry” for inadequate food boxes given to isolating students
Jeremy Cook, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Durham University (Colleges and Student Experience), this morning apologised on behalf of the University for inadequate food boxes that isolating students have been given by their colleges, during an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Mr Cook’s interview followed the broadcast of a pre-recorded conversation with an unnamed first-year student at Durham, who has recently contracted the virus and is self-isolating within her catered college. The student described how in the past week she has gone to bed with hunger pains because she had not been given enough food.
The student explained that she had received a food box that was supposed to last her 11 days. It contained no fruit and was instead filled with ready meals, crisps and pot noodles. She suggested that the lack of fresh food had made her more unwell, saying “I haven’t had vegetables in over a week”.
In addition to the suggestion that inadequate food had contributed to her ill health, the student commented that feeling hungry and exhausted had made it difficult to concentrate during online lectures and seminars.
After the conversation was recorded, the student contacted the Today programme to say that she had now had her first hot meal in six days.
In response, Jeremy Cook told the Today programme that “We’re really very sorry to those students who feel that they have not been given sufficient or healthy food.
“But we’ve acted fast, we’ve listened to our students, and recognised their concerns.”
Mr Cook said that since the concerns were raised, the University has acted and is now able to deliver hot meals to the isolating students, by hiring more staff and revising operations.
When asked why the interviewed student had waited six days for hot food, Mr Cook said that the majority of isolating students had waited between 24 and 48 hours for their first hot meal.
The catering plans were revised after livers-in at Collingwood and St Mary’s Colleges were yesterday advised not to leave University campus for a week, regardless of whether they are self-isolating. Each college has around 50 residents who have tested positive for the virus and are now self-isolating with the rest of their households.
Other colleges are now following suit and providing hot meals for those in isolation.
8th October: New coronavirus testing centre in Durham City
A new coronavirus testing centre has today opened in Territorial Lane car park in Durham City. It is located just off Old Elvet, on land belonging to the University.
Opened by the Department of Health and Social Care, the centre is different to mobile testing units across the country because it will stay in the same location. Appointments are available from 8am to 8pm, seven days per week.
The centre is pedestrian access only and will feature “better accommodation and shelter for those being tested”, according to Durham County Council.
Testing is available for those either with coronavirus symptoms – a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or a loss or change to sense or taste – or those who have been asked to get tested by a doctor or public health professional. People without these symptoms should not seek a test unless they have been specifically advised to do so.
Anyone attending an appointment will be advised how to get to and from the test site safely without putting others at risk, as well as the public health measures they need to follow. This includes social distancing, not travelling by taxi or public transport, practising good personal hygiene and wearing a face covering throughout, including when travelling to and from the testing centre.
8th October: Students living in St Mary’s and Collingwood must stay on University campus for a week
All students living at St Mary’s and Collingwood Colleges have been told not to leave campus for the next seven days, following an increased number of Covid-19 cases. Livers-in at both colleges may only attend campus-held activities organised by the University, including in-person teaching.
In an email sent to all students this afternoon, Clare O’Malley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Global), said: “As a result of an increasing number of cases within our College residence, we have taken the decision to ask all students living in St Mary’s and Collingwood Colleges to remain on the broader University campus for seven days from today (Thursday 8 October) even if they are not self-isolating or have not tested positive for coronavirus.”
As of yesterday (Wednesday 7th October), a total of 251 students at Durham have confirmed cases of Covid-19. Out of the 300 residents at St Mary’s and the 500 at Collingwood, approximately 50 students living in each college have tested positive . There are some students already self-isolating in both colleges, and in others including Hatfield and St Cuthbert’s Society. Students at St Mary’s and Collingwood who are not self-isolating will be encouraged to take part in “onsite activities managed by Junior Common
Rooms and societies”. These students will also be allowed to attend face-to-face teaching sessions, and leave campus for “essential trips” such as Covid-19 tests. They may not go into Durham City centre.
Durham University has said that self-isolating students at both colleges, which are fully-catered, “will receive ongoing welfare including access to hot, healthy food, support with essential services and supplies, and continued access to their education online”.
8th October: What to do if you have COVID-19 Symptoms during term
If you develop any one of the three main coronavirus symptoms you must book a Covid-19 test as soon as possible via https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test. You must also self-isolate, along with everyone in your household and support bubble, until you get a result. This means not leaving your accommodation for any reason other than getting a test.
If you have symptoms, you must self-isolate for 10 days from when the symptoms started. If you have had a positive test but no symptoms, you must also self-isolate for 10 days. If someone in your household has tested positive, you must self-isolate for 14 days.
5th October: At least 79 Covid-19 cases among Durham staff and students
Durham University has reported 79 Covid-19 cases amongst students and staff, including 70 cases in the last seven days.
In an email to students, the University announced that it would be publishing weekly updates on the total number of cases. This will only include cases reported by staff and students through relevant reporting systems, such as a student’s College Student Support Office. Three of the total cases reported are among staff, and 76 among students.
Figures are taken for all staff and students, not just those living and working on campus or in Durham City.
Palatinate understands that at least five freshers’ representatives (‘freps’), who help new students move in, have tested positive for coronavirus – two in Josephine Butler College, and one in St. Mary’s College and University College.
5th October: 70 Hatfield students isolating after rule breaking
A Hatfield fresher developing Covid-19 symptoms has led to 70 other students being forced to self-isolate for two weeks.
Confirmed by the Master of Hatfield college in a webinar for returning livers-in, the fresher’s household admitted to socialising with other households in his accommodation block. As such, four households of approximately 70 students have been put into self-isolation.
The students have been banned from using the bar and café. Staff must check wristbands and report if any household that ought to be isolating tries to enter the bar.
At Josephine Butler college, a freshers’ representative (frep), whose previous Covid-19 test result was inconclusive, has tested positive for the virus.
A significant number of freps at Josephine Butler are now isolating because of potential exposure, particularly those Frepping at events on Friday.
One of the head freps has been isolating since Friday when another frep tested positive for the virus. In response, Freshers week events at the college were scaled down, and the in-person freshers fair was cancelled.
Palatinate understands that freps who had not received the NHS Covid-19 App notification to say they had had exposure to the virus were allowed to continue frepping. Following the latest positive test result, more freps will now have to isolate.
For isolating Hatfield students, food packages are delivered to the bottom of their staircases and they have been using the tennis courts for their 20 minutes daily exercise, twice a day. According to the Master, most freshers have been very respectful of the college’s coronavirus rules.
Four households are known to be isolating at St Mary’s College.
3rd October: “Multiple reports” of rule-breaking as some colleges move activities online
Some colleges have moved freshers’ week activities online after reports of freshers mixing households, including with other colleges. Several colleges have seen confirmed Covid-19 cases, including among freshers’ representatives (‘freps’), who help new students move in.
In a meeting on Wednesday evening, freps at University College were told that all activities for freshers’ week, which ends on Sunday, would now be held online if possible. Freps are also barred from going into the college, including for food, unless they live in college accommodation. Yesterday morning, one household at the college went into self-isolation.
Yesterday afternoon, representatives at St. Mary’s College made a similar decision to stop face-to-face activities after a frep tested positive for Covid-19.
At least three households are also isolating in its college accommodation. Palatinate understands that a frep at Josephine Butler also tested positive, with all relevant households isolating as a result. The college has since cancelled their in-person freshers fair for today and tomorrow, and is running a reduced number of events with fewer freps.
Students found to have broken Covid-19 rules, which currently include a complete ban on mixing with other households in any indoor or private setting, can face serious repercussions.
In an email to returning students this afternoon, Professor Wendy Powers, Principal of University College, wrote that sanctions can include “verbal warnings, written warnings in a student’s official university record, £500 fines, community service, and/or expedited referral to Senate Disciplinary Committee which may result in suspension or even expulsion”.
Trevelyan College is also understood to have at least two confirmed cases of Covid-19, with three households isolating.
28th September: All indoor mixing banned in the North East
Tighter restrictions on socialising in the North East have been announced this evening. Mixing between households or bubbles in any indoor setting will be against the law from Wednesday 30th September at 00:01. Covid-secure schools and workplaces will not be affected.
Over two million people in the North East had previously been banned from socialising with other people outside their own households or support bubbles in homes or gardens, in measures that came into force on the 18th September.
This week, the University announced that all level 2-4 teaching will be online until at least the 12th October. Practical classes, however, are exempt and will take place in person.