Cases of coronavirus in the student population of Exeter are reducing – but health chiefs have called for extra vigilance.
The message comes with a warning of more infections in the city’s wider population and across Devon in line with a rise nationally.
A ‘cluster’ of the virus in the University and Pennsylvania area has dropped from a peak of 307 cases to 193.
Restrictions telling students not to mix indoors with anyone from outside their household have been extended by another week.
The county’s director of public health Dr Virginia Pearson 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.
“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.
“Obviously, we want to limit the impact on people in older age groups and on to those who are particularly vulnerable so the time to act is now.
“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.”
Mike Shore-Nye, registrar and secretary at the University of Exeter, said: “We know from our close working with Public Health England (PHE) 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 October 14, shows that there were 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.
“This is due to the efforts of all of you in adhering to the guidelines and in doing so showing respect and compassion for all members of our local communities.
“These are very early signs, and for this reason I am once again asking students based in Exeter to continue not to meet indoors with students who are not part of your household for a further seven days, until October 26.
“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.”
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