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The truth behind Covid infection rates in Sheffield student suburbs

Written by on 16/10/2020

New analysis of areas where students make up 25 per cent or more of residents has revealed that the rate of infection is now more than five times as high in these areas as in others.

The neighbourhoods with the highest rates of coronavirus in Sheffield are all areas with very high student populations.

In particular, Endcliffe & Ranmoor has one of the highest rates in England, with 408 cases confirmed in the week from September 28.

That’s up from 22 cases seen the week before, and works out as the equivalent of a whopping 4,044 cases for every 100,000 residents.

Around 40 per cent of people who live in the area are full-time students.

The neighbourhood with the next-highest rate in Sheffield is Broomhall where 51 per cent of residents are students, with 2,019 cases per 100,000 people that week.

Also making it into the top five hotspots are Sharrow (38 per cent students, 1,043 cases per 100,000), Highfield & Lowfield (42 per cent, 866 per 100,000), and Devonshire Quarter (62 per cent, 829 per 100,000).

At the other end of the scale, the neighbourhoods in Sheffield with the lowest rates of coronavirus are all areas where students only make up a small proportion of residents.

Southey Green West has the lowest rate, at 56 cases for every 100,000 people in the latest week of data – five cases in total, which was down from seven the week before.

Only 4 per cent of the local population there are full-time students.



Coronavirus: cases spike in student neighbourhoods
Coronavirus: cases spike in student neighbourhoods

There are of course other factors that are at play here.

For example, there may be a link with population density, as student housing is often built in areas that already have a lot of people living in close quarters, and therefore more at risk.

However, that’s not always the case, and there have also been many spikes in areas with medium and low population density.

Nationally, neighbourhoods where at least one in four people are a full-time student saw an average of 551 cases of coronavirus for every 100,000 of the population in the week beginning September 28.



Coronavirus cases spike in student neighbourhoods

In comparison, neighbourhoods where students represented fewer than 25 per cent of residents saw 100 cases for every 100,000 people that week.

The rate is also rising much quicker in student neighbourhoods, having nearly tripled from 190 cases per 100,000 in the week starting September 21.

The rate didn’t even double in areas with fewer students, having risen from 61 cases per 100,000 during that time.

Larissa Kennedy, president of the NUS, said: “It is clear that students have been sold a lie about their experience this term by universities that have prioritised their income over the health of their staff and students, because the government failed to offer them the financial support and guidance required to act in the interests of safety.

“It is awful, yet unsurprising, to see the covid figures soar, given the governments’ poor management over the situation, but we must see measures put in place to protect students and local communities affected, with urgency.

“NUS is demanding the right for students to leave their university accommodation and access education entirely online, to benefit the safety and wellbeing of students, staff and local residents at risk in high-case areas.

“We hope to see universities now facilitate online teaching to the highest standard, allow students to defer or drop out of courses with no financial detriment, and provide rent reimbursements.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Universities are prepared for local outbreaks, and we have worked with them to help draw up plans for measures in the event of positive cases on campus, or a rise in cases locally.

“We understand this has been a very difficult time for students and so it is crucial for their wellbeing and education to be able to go to university and carry on with their lives, which is why we have supported universities to provide a blend of online and in-person learning in a Covid secure way this term.

“Universities are working closely with local authorities and public health officials to monitor cases, and a number of universities have increased their online teaching in response to local outbreaks. This is in line with Government guidance which sets out four tiers of restrictions for education settings, based upon SAGE advice.”