UCL COVID Cases rise to 226

Are we shocked? Not particularly, but the number is rising quickly with new cases everyday.

After London was moved into Tier 2 Lockdown last week the number of COVID-19 cases is on the rise in London. And so, it is unsurprising that the stats at UCL also reflect this. Since the start of Term 1 on the 28th of September, there have been a total of 266 cases reported on the UCL website amongst students and 14 amongst staff. These new cases are defined as new confirmed positive test results reported to UCL’s Public Health Daily Review Group.

Out of the 266 total cases amongst students, 214 are reported to be ‘on campus’. This doesn’t just mean cases in halls, but that you have visited UCL buildings, spending 15 minutes or more, in the two days before starting experiencing symptoms or requesting a test. So it includes anyone who has been on campus for any reason including visiting the library or face-to-face teaching and has then subsequently tested positive. The other 52 are ‘off campus’ which means that they could be students that have chosen to live at home or abroad or who haven’t come into UCL in the two days before testing positive.

What is truly astounding is the increase in cases. In the last 7 days, 164 new cases have been reported to UCL, and of these 140 have been ‘on campus’. Over the weekend alone there has been an increase of 41 overall new cases and 33 of these have been ‘on campus’. The fact that the cases on campus are rising much more quickly than general cases, and confirms that COVID-19 is spreading around UCL’s campus itself, whether that be in halls or other communal buildings. Even UCL UCU has tweeted that they are particularly shocked by the rapid increase in cases on campus. The university has introduced extensive measures to help prevent the spread of COVID on campus, including booking study spaces, hand sanitisation stations, compulsory face coverings and splitting halls into households to socialise. Currently, UCL’s campus has reduced the number of people onsite to 25% capacity in order to try and keep everyone as safe as possible, but cases are still spreading and there is little the university can do.

Inevitably though, the return to university and to campus for many students is seeing an increase in cases at universities across the country. UCL currently has manageable numbers and is keeping face-to-face teaching and facilities open where possible, but as the numbers continue to climb the response from the university must be constantly reviewed.  London has just moved into Tier 2, which means that restrictions in the capital have become harsher and we are facing lockdown 2.0 as COVID cases continue to rise. In the local area around UCL, Camden’s Covid-19 Open Data Dashboard has reported that cases are rising rapidly as well, with 302 confirmed cases between 5th October and 11th October, which was an increase of 157 new cases in a single week. The stats reported by UCL confirm the general rise of cases in the area,

UCL is requesting that any student that receives a positive test result and is self-isolating to report it to UCL Connect to Protect so that the university can support students who are self-isolating and also to keep their stats as accurate as possible. This system allows UCL to monitor the cases and handle the situation internally, but it is still a new tool, and so may account for the rise in cases as more students find out about it and begin to start actually using it to report their cases. Since it doesn’t take into account anyone who is asymptomatic on campus who has not received a positive test result, there may be more cases floating around UCL than is being reported.

So, whilst we get used to the new Tier 2 restrictions put in place in London, make sure that if you experience any symptoms you get a test and report it to UCL if you have been on campus in the 2 days prior or live in halls. Though the cases are rising, the university is still a community and there will be support available to you if you need it, whether that is additional cleaning and food provisions in halls or making use of UCL’s Student Support and Wellbeing for extra support whilst self-isolating.

A UCL spokesperson said: “The number of students who have tested positive for Covid-19 in UCL managed halls remains low compared to the size of UCL’s community of 61,500 students and staff.

“Those that have tested positive, along with their contacts, are being asked to self-isolate in line with Government guidance for the safety of members of both the UCL and wider community.

“UCL will be doing everything we can to support our students through the process of self-isolation with day-to-day practicalities such as free food deliveries, laundry and rubbish collection, as well as providing individual support for mental health and wellbeing.

“We are encouraging any student with symptoms to contact NHS Test and Trace and to book a test in line with Government guidance. Symptomatic students living within UCL Halls and symptomatic staff who are required to work on campus are also now able to book a test through UCL’s internal testing facility.

“We are also encouraging anyone with symptoms to report them through UCL’s ‘Connect to Protect’ tool which has been designed with public health experts to help us monitor and respond to coronavirus cases at UCL. We will use the data from the tool, to put in place the necessary infection controls depending on the scale of any outbreak.

“The safety and wellbeing of our students is our highest priority and we are closely working with the London Coronavirus Response Cell. UCL is also taking advice and guidance form UCL’s Public Health Advisory Panel which is made up of some of the UK’s leading public health experts.”

How UCL is supporting students who are self-isolating 

Our Student Support and Wellbeing team is in regular contact with students who are experiencing coronavirus symptoms, have tested positive or are self-isolating to provide advice, practical help and wellbeing support. All students can access support from UCL’s Student Support and Wellbeing servicesto help look after their mental health and wellbeing.

More information about the support available is available on our Students webpages.

For students staying in accommodation managed by UCL, we also:

  • Provide 24 hour support onsite, seven days a week;
  • Give all self-isolating students who have notified UCL a free hamper of essential food and cleaning items;
  • Offer students vouchers for free meal deliveries. These cover a range of dietary requirements and will be delivered directly to students’ accommodation;
  • Support students with additional needs and medical conditions;
  • Help students access medication and other essential services such as laundry if required at no cost;
  • Make sure that all students know what to do if they or people they live with become unwell;
  • Invite students to join Flourish, UCL’s virtual community programme where they can take part in activities online, meet fellow residents and support their mental health and wellbeing.

We are also working closely with intercollegiate halls to support the UCL students staying there.