Two out of 6,000 University of Exeter students test positive for coronavirus ahead of Christmas break

Just two out of more than 6,000 University of Exeter students tested for coronavirus before going home for Christmas were positive.

The Team Devon Local Outbreak Engagement Board heard that cases at the education institution have plummeted.

Director of innovation, impact and business Sean Fielding told a meeting on Thursday that, since students returned in September, 1,500 infections have been cases confirmed via the university’s testing process.

He added: “These are significant numbers, but because we could isolate people quickly – we had around 6,000 people isolating at one stage – and kept students only able to mix within households indoors for an additional month, the transmission into the wider city has been relatively low.

“Now, our general testing is now recording no positives at all.

“We have had none for a week, and just one or two positives dotted around, and the positivity rate of those with symptoms is just 1.4 per cent.”

Mr Fielding said that, between November 30 and December 9, the university had tested 6,200 people -with only two positive results.

He added that mass testing would continue with an aim of administering 50,000 across January and the start of February.

The return of students will be staggered so that students and they will be asked to take two tests, three days apart.

Mr Fielding said: “We don’t want people coming into the city and creating an infection risk.”

Dr Paul Johnson, chairman of the Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, added: “There was a worry with the amount of Covid cases we would see in the vulnerable and in the hospitals, but that didn’t come to pass and a lot of that is down to the work that the students.”

Devon County Council chief executive Dr Phil Norrey said: “The work Exeter has done has been nationally leading and you can be proud of the work that the university has done.

“The fact you identified so many cases was a benefit – it may not have felt like it at the time but reduced the community spread.”

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