Coronavirus: 1,700 Manchester students told to isolate after coronavirus outbreak

26 September 2020, 01:04 | Updated: 26 September 2020, 13:53

Hundreds of university students in Manchester have been told to isolate after 127 tested positive for coronavirus.

Some 1,700 students at the Birley campus and Cambridge Halls at Manchester Metropolitan University have been told to stay in their rooms for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms.

It comes after students in Scotland were told to avoid pubs after coronavirus outbreaks forced hundreds into isolation at universities including Glasgow and Edinburgh Napier.

Across the UK, at least 32 universities have confirmed cases, while one other has suspected cases.

Michael Melia, a student at Manchester Metropolitan University, said there was not a "happy mood" in his flat.

"It was very sudden, there was no real warning," he said. "The flat are all the outgoing sort so they're taking it hard."

More than 510 cases have been identified among students and staff since universities reopened, according to data collected by Sky News up to 25 September.

In Manchester, the University and College Union said the incident was "the latest catastrophe in a week where wholly predictable - and predicted - COVID-19 outbreaks have caused havoc on campuses across the UK".

General secretary Jo Grady said: "We warned last month of the problems with moving thousands of students across the country and the time has come for urgent action from ministers and universities to protect staff and students.

"Manchester Metropolitan University shifting teaching online only for foundation and first-year students exposes the total absurdity of the current position of trying to continue with blended learning."

Councillor Bev Craig, executive member for adult health and wellbeing for Manchester City Council, said: "This is obviously very difficult for all of the young people involved and we will be working with the university and other public services to make sure that any of the students affected get the support they need.

"Students are a vital part of our city, and as part of our plans we expected that numbers could rise as they returned to the city."

The rate of COVID-19 spread in Manchester was 185.6 per 100,000 people in the week to 22 September, when 1,026 positive tests were recorded.

This was almost twice the rate of the previous week, when the infection rate was 93.2 per 100,000, with 515 cases.

Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, blamed the government's "incompetence" for the university outbreaks.

The ex-cabinet minister said the sudden changes to the way the exam results were worked out had resulted in an influx of numbers enrolling at university this year.