Telford & Wrekin Council and Harper Adams University are working together to contain rising cases of coronavirus among students in Newport.
As of Wednesday, October 28, 137 students had tested positive for the virus and are now self-isolating, or have recovered and completed their period of isolation.
Most of the positive cases are those of students living in private, shared housing in the town and cases are now beginning to slow down. Only a small number of cases involve students living on campus.
Evidence suggests that the virus in Newport is being spread in shared houses and not on campus, but that students are isolating and that there is a low risk of transmission elsewhere in the community if this remains the case. Excluding 18-24-year-olds, the infection rate and therefore transmission risk, is no higher in Newport than it is elsewhere in the borough.
On Tuesday 28 October, representatives of the university and Telford & Wrekin Council’s Health Protection Hub met local councillors to explain the measures they were taking to manage the situation.
Stringent COVID measures in place
Dr David Llewellyn, of Harper Adams University said: “We have stringent COVID measures in place on our university campus. Our first year students generally live in campus accommodation, while in subsequent years they move into private housing in the local area.
“Whether on or off site, we have the contact details of every student and we are routinely in touch with them with information on the COVID rules, how to ensure they minimise the risk of exposure and what they should do in the event that they need to self-isolate.
“The vast majority of Harper Adams students are to be commended for their attitude. Committed to progressing their studies, they have actively engaged in online lectures and, if they are not self-isolating, socially distanced tutorials and practical classes. They have accepted the actions they need to take to protect themselves and other students, and have found new ways to support each other in these more challenging circumstances. Where necessary, they are taking steps to ensure that their responsibilities to the wider community are also met.
“We were therefore heartened to see their efforts being recognised by the local community, some of whom have offered to help students who, in order to protect others, are self-isolating. Local residents have offered to shop for them, send takeaway food or just send messages of support via social media. The positive community spirit we saw at the start of the lockdown is clearly still present in Newport and the surrounding villages, and I just want to pass on my thanks to those who have acted, with kindness, in this way.”
Supporting the university
Liz Noakes, Telford & Wrekin Council’s Director of Public Health added: “We are supporting the university in its measures to tackle the virus and we are satisfied that they have done, and are still doing, everything they can.
“With evidence suggesting that the virus is being spread mainly in shared housing and away from the university itself, we are giving further information and guidance to all landlords of private accommodation including Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) licensed or otherwise to pass on to their tenants. This is in addition to the regular direct messaging from the university to individual students.
“While the situation in Newport is improving, cases are increasing across the borough of Telford and Wrekin and it is vital that everyone, wherever they are, play their part.
“The most important thing for anyone with any symptoms of COVID, however mild, is still to isolate and get tested. Anyone identified as a close contact must isolate for 14 days even if they test negative because it can take that long to develop symptoms.
“For everyone else it is vital, in order to protect others, that they keep their distance, wash their hands regularly, wear a face covering, not meet people from other households and keep to the ‘Rule of Six’.”