Exeter, the University and the spread of the coronavirus

“There is still no evidence that continuing rise in covid-19 cases linked to Exeter University has spread to the rest of the city.”

Scientists warn that universities are “human petri dishes” for spreading coronavirus.

“For most institutions, cancelling face-to-face teaching would be financial suicide because so many students would not live on campus.”

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Things are not looking good in Exeter at the moment:

Exeter Uni now in England’s top 10 coronavirus case hotspots – Devon Live

And there are fears that this outbreak is spreading into the wider community:

More than 50 pupils self-isolating after COVID-19 case is confirmed at Exeter secondary school – Devon Live

Although the University is saying this is not the case:

Exeter Uni COVID-19 outbreak ‘has not spread to wider community’, health chiefs say – Devon Live

“There is still no evidence that continuing rise in covid-19 cases linked to Exeter University has spread to the rest of the city, health bosses say.”

Exeter covid largely confined to university – Radio Exe

According to Dr Virgina Pearson, director of public health for Devon, speaking this afternoon, the outbreak in Exeter remains under control and 80% of the cases were contained within the university:

“The University of Exeter said earlier it would not hesitate to continue taking action against students who break coronavirus rules, and that a “handful” of students have been sent home for not keeping to the guidelines.”

Exeter News – BBC News

Exeter is NOT facing lockdown, says public health chief, as Uni outbreak contained | News | Tavistock Times Gazette

The University had its own testing regime:

Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) | Coronavirus (COVID-19) – information and advice | University of Exeter

But apparently it’s been ‘forced’ to abandon its 24-hour ‘Rapid Response’ system, although this report suggests two systems are running alongside each other:

Ben Bradshaw blasts Government over Exeter uni coronavirus testing – Devon Live

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To what extent, though, will the coronavirus outbreak in Exeter affect East Devon and Sidmouth?

Much of this will be about levels of commuting between city and town and country.

Sidmouth is one of the few places in the District which has more people commuting in than out to work – and most will be living in the likes of Honiton and beyond where housing is cheaper to compensate for low wages in the service economy of Sidmouth:

Futures Forum: VGS comment on Fords planning application 18/1094/MOUT

On the other hand, there are those who commute between Sidmouth and Exeter – and that includes the University.

However, this latest hotspot does seem determined to prevent the outbreak from spreading, as reported late this afternoon:

UK students sent home as universities crack down on Covid breaches | Education | The Guardian

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The basic problem is that universities are “human petri dishes” for spreading coronavirus as students have travelled from all parts of the UK and are sharing accommodation.

Scientists warn universities are ‘human petri dishes’ | London Business News | Londonlovesbusiness.com

And universities need their students to fill the accommodation blocs – because they are struggling financially:

Exeter hit by £37M loss after students kept away during lockdown – Devon Live

This comment is from a letter to the Guardian some ten days ago:

“As a UK academic, I think there is one key thing missing from your coverage of the safety of campuses opening up again: universities cannot survive without the revenue generated by students living on campus (Universities should be two-thirds empty to avoid Covid spikes, says expert, 25 September). This is not just about tuition fees; it includes accommodation fees and revenue from student bars, shops and sports centres. Since there is no longer comprehensive government funding for higher education, this is the only way that universities can survive.

“For most institutions, cancelling face-to-face teaching would be financial suicide because so many students would not live on campus. The blame for this should be directed at the party currently in government, which is responsible for designing this funding system in the first place and for refusing a comprehensive bail-out of universities that would allow them to cancel face-to-face teaching for the year and allow students to stay at home.”

The dilemmas faced by students and campuses | Universities | The Guardian

Although some might say Universities are taking advantage of the problem.

Lancaster, University of East Anglia, and not just in the UK   Trinity College Dublin

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photo: File: University of Exeter Piazza (6946750730).jpg – Wikimedia Commons

   
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