Few university students are testing positive for Covid - despite ‘bearing the brunt of blame and criticism’

The mass Covid testing of students before the Christmas holidays has found few positive cases so far, according to one university.

The BBC reports that the University of Portsmouth has so far found that 0.2 per cent of students are testing positive for Covid-19.

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‘Prevalence in students is now very low indeed’

The mass testing of university students was launched on campuses last week, screening hundreds of thousands of students for the virus before they headed home for the Christmas break.

Although there are no national figures on results from university testing yet, some early findings have begun to be published.

The University of Portsmouth’s initial sample of around 4,500 students showed a rate of 0.2 per cent positive results, which equates to about nine students.

The university’s vice-chancellor, Graham Galbraith, said, "We are seeing fewer than two per day on average at present.”

"Prevalence in students is now very low indeed," he added.

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Mr Galbraith said he wanted to publish the evidence from the testing in order to show how much infection rates had fallen among students at the university. He said students should not "bear the brunt of blame and criticism when in reality their overall behaviour has been exceptionally positive in conforming with the rules.”

The University of Cambridge also showed low positive results last week, from tests for those without any Covid symptoms. There were zero positive cases from more than 10,000 students screened.

Cambridge university students who thought they had Covid symptoms were also tested, with nine cases out of 71 confirmed as positive for the virus.

Staggered return to universities after Christmas

University students should also follow a staggered return to campus after the Christmas holidays, and be offered a coronavirus test, the government has now said.

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According to guidance published by the Department for Education (DfE) on 9 December, coronavirus tests should be made available to students on their return to university, with all institutions to be offered testing facilities to give students two lateral flow tests.

Universities should also stagger the return of students over five weeks in order to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

Addressing students’ return to university, Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan, said, “The health and wellbeing of students, staff and local communities is always our primary concern and this plan will enable a safer return for all students. But we must do this in a way which minimises the risk of transmission.

“I know students have had to make sacrifices this year and have faced a number of challenges, but this staggered return will help to protect students, staff and communities.”