PARENTS were urged not to let their university student children to come home if they need to self-isolate.
It came as Swindon’s case rate among people aged 18 to 30 rose markedly – making up more than 40 per cent of new coronavirus cases in the first two weeks of October.
With more areas expected to be placed on local lockdown, last night prime minister Boris Johnson said he wanted to avoid another national lockdown “if at all possible”.
He has faced calls for a so-called circuit breaker lockdown aimed at tackling rising rates.
The prime minister said: “Closing businesses in Cornwall where transmission is low will not cut transmission in Manchester”.
But he refused to rule anything out.
Director of public health for Swindon Borough Council Steve Maddern told reporters yesterday the town had seen the equivalent of 42.3 new coronavirus diagnoses per 100,000 people in the past week. That was double the number at the start of the month, but still lower than the south west average of around 75 cases per 100,000.
He said: “I think one of the reasons around this – when you look at the south west figures, where you are seeing areas hit into the 50s, 60s and even well into the hundreds – I think we’re lucky that we aren’t a university town.”
The proportion of 18-30 year olds testing positive hit 41 per cent between October 1 and 13, he said. That represented a significant change compared to the summer and early autumn, when new coronavirus cases were spread fairly evenly across age groups.
Mr Maddern admitted it “could be the case” that Swindon students testing positive while away from home at university were being counted in the borough’s case rate.
Asked what his message was for parents of university students, he said: “They should be assured that they are being sufficiently supported and looked after but you can’t bring them home. If they’re in self-isolation they need to stay where they are.
“I know that the instinct as a parent would be to bring your child home, but you can’t do that.
“It is a legal obligation to self-isolate. If we are aware of people who aren’t self-isolating that’s when we start looking at enforcement.”
He added: “As we said when we came off the watchlist, this isn’t a time for complacency. We’re heading into winter. Winter is tough enough as it is, but let’s not make it even tougher on ourselves by having to fight an uphill battle.
“If you’ve got any of those symptoms you need to self isolate and book a test. If you need to self-isolate it means just that. It’s not popping to the shops, it’s not seeing friends. If you’re a student it means you’re not going home, you’ve got to stay where you are for your isolation period.”
This week, hundreds of students at Bristol University have tested positive for coronavirus.
The outbreak at the university’s campus was confirmed last week, with more than 700 students diagnosed with the virus by Thursday.
Students were said to be planning a rent strike from later this month.
In a statement, organisers of the strike wrote: “Now, we are finding that most of our learning has moved online and we are essentially paying thousands of pounds in rent for a room we wished we’d never signed for.”
The university told the Metro: “Regular support and contact with students will ensure everyone is kept up-to-date and can ask any questions.”
Bosses said unlike some universities they were providing laundry services, cleaning supplies and some groceries.