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Exeter student households can't mix

Saturday, October 17th, 2020 1:07pm

By Daniel Clark, local democracy reporter

Ban extended for another week

University of Exeter students are being asked to not to mix households indoors for a further seven days in a bid to tackle the spread of coronavirus.

While cases linked and confirmed in students have been dropping in the last week – the Pennsylvania and University area has fallen from its high of 307 to 169 – the university has extended the indoor household mixing ban until 26 October in a bid to drive down infections further.

Mike Shore-Nye, registrar and secretary at the university said: “We know from our close working with Public Health England that the measures we have introduced, and the fact that our colleagues and students have responded so well, have been a major factor in our regions being placed in the ‘medium’ (lowest) rather than ‘high’ risk level with no further restrictions introduced at this time.

“We also know that this is a fragile position and that we must remain steadfast in our commitment to prevent the virus spreading. The latest Devon County Council covid-19 dashboard, dated 14 October, shows 262 positive cases in Exeter over the preceding seven days, and PHE tell us that more than 70 per cent of these are linked to the university. 

“The case numbers related to our campuses in Exeter have fallen over the past seven days. We continue to discuss the data and the underlying picture with our PHE colleagues and we are hopeful that we now see signs that the numbers of cases are no longer rising. 

“If we can establish a clear trend in the reduction of cases associated with the university then we can hope to reduce these restrictions and increase the amount of teaching and activities we are able to deliver on campus. To achieve this we must all continue to follow the covid-19 rules.”

He added that in recognition of the low number of cases attributed to the Cornwall campus, the students’ union have been able to begin the phased reintroduction of COVID-safe, in-person student society events. He added: “We are working with the Students’ Guild and Athletic Union to begin the reintroduction of COVID-safe indoor sports activities next week, if we see no evidence of an increase in positive cases. We are also asking students not to join sports teams based in the community at this time, to further reduce the risk of community transmission.”

Dr Virginia Pearson, Director of Public Health said: “The pattern in Exeter has shown a successful reduction in student cases with no sign of significant spread thanks to the swift actions of the University and other partners in working together to contain the situation. But we must not be complacent,” she said.

“We are now seeing more community cases in Exeter and across Devon, in line with the rise in the rest of the country, particularly in the working age population, and we expect cases to increase over the next few weeks. These cases cannot be linked to university students and the coronavirus appears to be passing between people outside of COVID-secure settings, which suggests that community spread is now occurring.

“Everyone – and particularly those people of working age – must be extra vigilant about maintaining social distancing, handwashing, wearing face coverings and avoiding social mixing if they can.”

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