All students who have tested positive, as well as those that they have come into close contact with, are being required to self-isolate for 14 days.
University and College Union (UCU) said it had warned Northumbria University before the start of term that “it was clearly far too soon for a mass return to campus” and claims the surge in cases was “preventable”.
However, a spokesperson for the university said the increase in cases “reflects the good access to and availability of testing, as well as rigorous and robust reporting systems”.
They continued: “we are making it clear to students that if they break the rules they will be subject to fines from the police and disciplinary action by the universities”. They explained the regulations for students are in place in order to keep “themselves, each other and the wider community safe”.
The Courier spoke to one student at the university currently living in a student house while on a placement year. Wishing to remain anonymous, they said they are “grateful that more people are asymptomatic; it makes me less scared that people are not getting as ill”. Although they added: “it’s worrying that I could pass it on without knowing”.
When asked about the national impact of the virus, they told the Courier that they think the same will occur at other universities across the country: “[Northumbria University] is definitely not the first and definitely not the last”.
Another student who would like to remain anonymous has said, “the news has terrified me. I don’t feel safe here at all. I’ve stopped interacting with people in social settings even where it’s allowed.”
The student is currently living in university halls and has described the accommodation and surrounding area as “like a ghost town”.
Despite the “horrendous” news, they remain concerned that students will continue to break the government guidelines. “Because most people are asymptomatic, I feel like they think it’s not even serious when obviously it is. I feel like some people simply do not care.
“I see tonnes of students on social media still going out and mixing with other households despite the rules and this is very scary.”
Northumbria Students’ Union has also released a statement saying they are working hard to “create an environment where students can not only safely access the education they came here for but enjoy life on campus too”.
The university has informed self-isolating students that they will be provided with food and welfare support. It also assures them that they will receive additional academic support if they are unable to attend face-to-face teaching.
The spokesperson for the university has gone on to say that “by Saturday evening, more than 1,000 students will have been supported with access to online concierge services or food parcels”.
94 students have also tested positive at Newcastle University, as well as seven members of staff.
The news comes after reports of thousands of students being required to self-isolate at 56 universities across the UK, with the largest numbers of cases at Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Glasgow.
These cases have arisen two weeks after a local lockdown in the North East was imposed. Being unable to socialise with members of other households and pubs and restaurants closing at 10pm were among the new restrictions.
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