Covid in Scotland: 124 test positive in Glasgow University outbreak

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A major outbreak of Covid-19 at Glasgow University has led to 124 students testing positive.

The university said the actual number of infected students was “likely to be higher”, and added that 600 people were self-isolating.

Details of the outbreak emerged after Scotland’s national clinical director, Prof Jason Leitch, urged students to stick to the rules.

The clusters are centred on two halls of residence in the city.

The university said they involved the Murano Street and Cairncross residences, and were largely due to social activity at the start of Freshers Week, from 12-14 September.

In a statement it said: “We are working closely with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s public health team to manage these.

“The total number of reported cases since the start of term is 124 but the actual number is likely to be higher.

“Over 600 students are isolating across all residences. We are not aware of any students who have had to receive hospital treatment.

“The student households affected are self-isolating and have access to food and other supplies. Advice on medical issues including mental health and wellbeing is being made available. We have also increased the number of support staff liaising with our residences.”

‘Disciplinary action’

The university said environmental health teams had inspected the residences on Wednesday and reported that robust procedures were in place.

Any students found to be breaking the rules faced disciplinary action including termination of their accommodation contracts and suspension from the university, it added.

The Glasgow outbreak is one of a number linked to student residences across Scotland.

All 500 residents at Parker House in Dundee have been asked to self-isolate until contact tracing is complete after three confirmed and a number of suspected coronavirus cases.

In Aberdeen 72 residents at Hillhead student village are self isolating after students tested positive.

Earlier Prof Leitch had described the Glasgow University outbreak as “significant” and issued a warning to students about following guidelines.

During the daily briefing, he said: “We need you not to have house parties, I could not be any clearer.”

He outlined four ways in which student could help curb the spread of the virus.

  1. If you have any symptoms of Covid-19, self-isolate and book a test immediately
  2. Download the Protect Scotland app to your mobile phone
  3. Follow the Test and Protect advice and the advice from your institution. If you are asked to self-isolate you must do so for 14 days
  4. Don’t have house parties

And he reminded students that new restrictions on mixing with other households in private homes applied to students as well as the rest of the population.

What went wrong during Freshers Week?

One student at Cairncross House told BBC Scotland she was asked to quarantine on Sunday – a week after arriving in the city.

Under Scottish government guidelines, students in residences are assigned to “households” based on shared facilities such as kitchens.

She said two people in her household of eight had tested positive for coronavirus.

They are mainly reporting a loss of taste or smell, and a slight fever, she said.

It appears to have spread through the residence in Freshers’ Week, when students mixed with people outside their households.

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“I don’t think people were being too wildly unsensible,” the student said.

“People were mixing outside of their households because I mean it was Freshers Week, people weren’t going to stay in their own kitchens and not do anything.

“But I don’t think people were being too crazy. The halls I’m in isn’t the craziest. There haven’t been massive parties.”

She said they have been advised to wear masks when they leave their rooms to use shared kitchens, and to order supermarket deliveries.

But she was able to continue her studies as all her classes are online.

“It’s a bit strange,” she said. “It does get a bit hard to concentrate when you’re sitting in your room from 9-5 and you can’t go out for a walk to clear your head.

“At the same time, it’s nice to have the work to occupy my time. But it’s only day three, so it might get harder.”

‘No fault of students’

Nicola Sturgeon said the Glasgow University outbreak had affected the daily Covid-19 infection figure for the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde area.

A total of 224 cases were recorded across the health board area in the past day, she said.

She said the outbreaks were in “no way shape or form” the fault of students and she made a direct appeal to them.

“I know the vast majority of you will already be doing the right things,” she said.

“I want to recognise how tough that is and I want to thank you for it. But it’s also important to underline a key point for students living in halls or shared accommodation who might be watching.

“If you are asked to self-isolate and I know many of you right now are already in that position, it is really, really important that you follow that advice.”

She urged them to follow the FACTS advice and abide by the new restrictions on household gatherings.

The president of the National Union of Students in Scotland, Matt Crilly, said many students were concerned by the rising number of cases linked to universities and colleges.

“It’s a really difficult time,” he said. “Obviously, they’ve been asked by their university or college to return to campus and they’re now living in halls and they’re really worried.

“We’re all really worried about this spate of outbreaks of Covid cases around us.”

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