Covid incidents tiny proportion of 6,000 students tested
Only two University of Exeter students out of the more than 6,000 who were tested before going home for Christmas tested positive for covid-19, the Team Devon Local Outbreak Engagement Board has heard.
And in the last seven days to Wednesday, no students proved positive after requesting a test after experiencing symptoms.
The figures are in stark contrast to October, when the Pennsylvania and University area of the city had the seventh highest number of cases in the area, hitting 322 in a seven day period. That is now down to three – of which at least one of the cases is not linked to the university.
Sean Fielding, Director of Innovation, Impact and Business, told the meeting that since students returned to campus in September, more than 1,500 people tested positive. He said: “These are significant numbers, but because we could isolate people quickly, we had around 6,000 people isolating at one stage, and kept students only able to mix within households indoors for an additional month, the transmission into the wider city has been relatively low.
“Now, our general testing is now recording no positives at all. We have had none for a week, and just 1 or 2 positives dotted around, and the positivity rate of those with symptoms is just 1.4 per cent.”
On the lateral flow tests that provide rapid results, Mr Fielding said that between November 30 and December 9, they tested 6,200 people, and that there were only two positives over that whole period.
Mr Fielding said that the mass testing would continue in the new year, with an aim of 50,000 tests in January and the start of February. The return will be staggered, and when they arrive, every student will be asked to take two tests, three days apart.
Outlining the process, Mike Shore-Nye, Registrar and Secretary, had previously said: “The government recommendation is that students should take two of the government-provided Lateral Flow Device tests, three days apart. If both of these tests return negative results then students can consider it safe to access shared teaching, study and social spaces. If either test returns a positive result then a HALO test will also be offered. If that is positive, students should continue to self-isolate for 10 days.
Dr Paul Johnson, chairman of the Devon CCG, added: “There was a worry with the amount of covid cases we would see it in the vulnerable and in the hospitals but that didn’t come to pass and a lot of that is down to the work that the students.”
Dr Phil Norrey, Devon County Council’s chief executive added: “The work Exeter done has been nationally leading and you can be proud of the work that the University has done. The fact you identified so many cases was a benefit – it may not have felt like it at the time but reduced the community spread.”