Friday, 23 Oct 2020

Students hold 'Covid' parties where only people who test positive can get in

Students are reportedly organising ‘Covid Positive’ parties in halls amid one of the largest outbreaks across the UK.

More than 1,000 students have now tested positive for coronavirus at Manchester University, with thousands more forced into isolation.

The uni’s Fallowfield campus, home to Manchester’s biggest concentration of first-year students, has become a Covid-19 hotspot, with cases rising every day.

But as uni and health bosses struggle to contain the virus spreading through halls, reports of worrying behaviour are emerging.

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According to one 18-year-old physics student, a ‘Covid Positive’ party was broken up by security on Saturday.

The fresher said it could have been a big party had security not showed up, telling the Guardian: ‘There was a flat party a few days ago which had a policy that you could only get in if you were positive. It was like their health-and-safety measure.’

Dozens of students were also filmed partying outside halls in Fallowfield last month, with brazen ‘Covid wah?’ captions shared on Snapchat.

The university said it ‘strongly’ condemned this type of behaviour, which could eventually cause the virus to spread to more vulnerable age groups in the community.

Manchester’s director of public health, David Regan, said the city’s spike is being driven by cases among the 17 to 21-year-old student age group.

There were 2,740 new cases in Manchester in the week up to October 1, and more than half (55%) were in the 17-21 student age group.

The incidence rate for this group is now 2,935 per 100,000 people, nearly six times higher than the rest of Manchester (495), and over 23 times higher than the national rate (125).

Both Manchester University and Manchester Metropolitan – where there was a smaller outbreak in late September – have shifted to online classes to protect the health of students and staff.

The universities said they would increase the level of online learning for most programmes from Wednesday until October 30, while face-to-face teaching would continue for some clinical or practice-based classes.

It come amid rising cases across the country, with analysis showing the UK-wide infection rate has increased from 63.8 per 100,000 to 125.7.

The University and College Union (UCU) has welcomed the move by the Manchester universities but said virus outbreaks could have been prevented had the decision been made earlier.

In a statement, the UCU said: ‘It is clear the Government needs to stop pretending university campuses are well prepared for this crisis, and tell all universities to halt in-person teaching to control the spread of the virus.’

Meanwhile, staff at the coronavirus-hit Northumbria University have called on vice-chancellor Andrew Wathey to resign as UCU members agreed to ballot for industrial action over health and safety concerns.

The university announced on Friday that 770 students had tested positive to Covid-19, including 78 who were symptomatic, with those testing positive now self-isolating in their accommodation.

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