Durham University has worst Covid-19 rate of UK universities, despite fall in cases

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Despite a steady decrease in cases, Durham University has the fifth highest number of total Covid-19 cases of all 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. 

This comes as staff at Durham wrote an open letter recently to the Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart Corbridge, requesting a complete stop to all non-essential face-to-face teaching. The union representing academics and support staff in Durham wrote to the Vice-Chancellor earlier this month with a similar proposal.

The University has already allowed staff with underlying health or mental health conditions to opt out from face-to-face teaching, but the open letter said this was not enough, and that the preparations taken are now “dangerously inadequate”.

Data from the UCU shows Northumbria and Newcastle universities, both also in North-East of England, as the second and third worst universities respectively for the number of Covid-19 cases as a percentage of students and staff. 5.5% of students and staff have tested positive for the virus at Northumbria, and 5.2% of students and staff at Newcastle.

Both universities have moved all teaching online, other than practical classes, with the arrangements being reviewed by Newcastle University today.

In an email to all students on Monday, Claire O’Malley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Global), said: “Please be assured that we are proactively and regularly monitoring and managing the situation with local and national public health experts. 

“We will continue to keep you updated. Thank you again for your vigilance in observing all Government and University guidelines at this challenging time.”

Image: Amana Moore

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