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Sheffield University hit with major coronavirus outbreak as 474 students test positive

05 October 2020

undreds of students have been plunged into self-isolation after two more universities were hit with major coronavirus outbreaks totalling 850 cases.

Some 474 students and five staff have tested positive at the University of Sheffield, while 380 cases have been logged at Manchester University.

Meanwhile, Sheffield Hallam University told students on Monday night more classes are shifting online for a fortnight after 373 cases were recorded over the past two weeks, including 127 last weekend.

They are the latest campuses to be rocked with outbreaks after 770 students tested positive at Northumbria University on Friday and thousands were sent into lockdown at Manchester Metropolitan and Glasgow universities.

Around 70 universities have experienced outbreaks over the past three weeks, with more than 4,000 students in self-isolation.

At Sheffield University, a further 171 student cases and three among staff were confirmed over the weekend, bringing the campus total to 474 students and five staff since September 28, when recording began.

Sheffield University is the latest to be hit with a huge outbreak / Ewan Somerville

At the University of Manchester 382 students and staff tested positive in the ten days between September 21 and September 30, the institution’s latest available data shows.

Manchester now has the highest rate of cases in England, having recorded 2,740 cases in the week to October 1.

This equates to 495.6 cases per 100,000 people, up from 223.2 in the previous week, with many cases attributed to the city’s large student population.

At the nearby Manchester Metropolitan University, 1,700 students were told to self-isolate in their halls last week, guarded by security and police, after 127 cases.

Some complained of prison-like conditions, dubbing the campus “HMP MMU”.

Students in Manchester have been placed in lockdown / Getty Images

Unlike Manchester, Sheffield is not currently under any local lockdown curbs.

Public Health England has flagged the South Yorkshire city as an “area of enhanced support” on its watchlist, one tier beneath lockdown, after its seven-day infection rate rose from 91.8 per 100,000 people to 233.1.

Northumbria University has had the largest known campus outbreak so far, with 770 student cases - 78 of them symptomatic.

The University and College Union is balloting lecturers for strike action there as it steps up calls for all teaching to shift online.

A Sheffield University spokesperson said staff would be contacting students self-isolating to “check their welfare and offer practical and emotional support”.

Manchester University’s vice-chancellor, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, said the rising cases were “worrying” and “a cause for concern”.

She added that no halls were in lockdown and food, laundry, prescription and welfare support would be given to those self-isolating.

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