University Covid rate remains low while Cambridge rate still far above national average

The University’s asymptomatic testing programme only identified four cases in the week from 19 to 25 April

In the month of April, Cambridge has seen a significant rise in its coronavirus infection rate, after previously reaching a low of 10.4 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people for the first week of April. The rate then rose to a peak of 64.9 per 100,000 in the seven days up to the 23 April, with Cambridge experiencing the second largest rise in the country for that week. Since then, numbers have begun to slow, declining to 39.3 per 100,00 for the week up to the 28 April.

Despite the rate now declining, Cambridge’s coronavirus case rate remains well above the national average, which for the week up to 27 April was 23.2 per 100,000, according to statistics on the government’s website. The Cambridge areas with the highest rates are Romsey with a total of nine cases in the week up to the 27 April, and the Milton, Fen Ditton and Quy area, which also recorded nine cases during this timeframe. The most recent data from the government places the city of Cambridge near the very top of its list of the highest coronavirus case rates, as the 28th local area in England with the highest rate per 100,000 of the population.

Cases in the University, on the other hand, remain low. After six consecutive weeks with zero cases, the University has experienced a rise to four cases identified through its testing programmes in the week from the 19 to 25 April. However, with a total of 5,189 students receiving a test, the University’s coronavirus rate remains significantly below the level of the town itself. The weekly University coronavirus testing report circulated to participants estimates that one in 1,300 university students (0.08 per cent) have an asymptomatic coronavirus infection.

The University has also announced it is shutting its Lighthouse Lab for processing coronavirus tests, which was set up at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. The site, located at the Anne McLaren building on the University’s Biomedical Campus, has been at the heart of the University’s testing programme over the last year, analysing swabs from both the University’s own testing programme and the public NHS testing scheme. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the site has analysed more than three million tests.

The asymptomatic testing programme will now be processed by private company Excalibur Healthcare Services while analysis for symptomatic tests will be conducted at Public Health England labs at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. The previous site will now return to its original function as a biomedical research centre. The University has assured members that this change will not affect the operation of its testing programme for participants.

Cambridge University’s asymptomatic testing programme has run throughout the 2020/21 academic year, offering weekly pooled tests for students at the University. As students begin to return to Cambridge, the University is keen to ensure students participate in the weekly asymptomatic testing program, recently launching a new poster campaign with the slogan “I test to protect you. You test to protect me.” Students returning to the city are also expected to take an individual test on arrival, and isolate until receiving a result, in order to minimise transmission in the community.

Cambridge is not alone in its infection rate rise, with 168 out of the 315 local areas in England (53 per cent) recording a rise in coronavirus cases. Nevertheless, Cambridge seems to have been particularly impacted, with the city’s infection rates sitting well above the national average.

Public Health England have identified the rise as primarily located in younger residents, with the highest rate occurring for 10-14 year olds, then older teenagers and younger infants.

With the coronavirus rate still high in the city, Cambridgeshire County Council is urging all Cambridge residents to continue following all Covid-19 guidelines by meeting outside, following the rule of six, keeping two metres apart, and wearing masks.

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