Nottingham’s universities have outlined their plans for the return of students after Nottingham City Council’s deputy leader raised concerns the new term could lead to a fresh Covid-19 outbreak.
Cllr Sally Longford (Lab), questioned representatives from Nottingham Trent University and the University of Nottingham at an Outbreak Control meeting on Friday, July 23.
She said: “How are we going to avoid the same problems we had last autumn with the horrendous peak we experienced that certainly was associated with the return of students?
“Despite all your communication and good work, we know the data is clear that we had another spike in infections as exam period passed and I am absolutely sure it is no coincidence the wards with high student populations were the places with the highest infections.
“As soon as they went home the infection rate in these areas went down dramatically.
“How are we going to ensure that will not happen again in September and October? What are you going to do differently? As a councillor, how do I reassure my citizens who live in the area that students returning are not going to put them at serious risk again?
“We can’t allow it to happen again.”
Both Nottingham Trent and the University of Nottingham said they had major plans in place.
Nottingham Trent said it has pushed the government to have 17-year-olds vaccinated before they turn 18 and arrive in the city to start their first year of studies – a change confirmed by the Government earlier this week.
Jason Carter, from the University of Nottingham, said: “We have a very strong campaign around vaccinations. We have already started with students and staff.
“Those who don’t (get vaccinated) before they return, we will be providing a service at Cripps Health Centre. We will also be continuing testing on site at the university.
“There will be regular testing on a weekly basis on campus.”
Prof Nigel Wright, a Nottingham Trent University Deputy Vice-Chancellor, said they were doing the same and that there was now more access to testing than ever before.
He said: “There is a whole range of measures, some of them we did not have at our disposal in the autumn that is particularly the vaccine programme, which we are encouraging students [to take up].
“The gap between the two doses has been reduced to eight weeks. We also have a testing capacity that is greater than it was in the autumn.”