Update on University COVID-19 infection rates

15 October 2020

As you may know, in line with our commitment to protect the health and wellbeing of our community, we are tracking and publishing data on reported infections in students and staff.

The graph below tracks the latest data. Throughout the period staff cases have remained low. Positive student cases increased very rapidly from almost no cases to over 200 in just four days (much more quickly than has been seen in other situations). Reported infections are now declining.

Graph showing reported COVID-19 case data for students and key dates. Full data for staff and students for the past two weeks can be viewed in tabular format at www.manchester.ac.uk/coronavirus/cases
Reporting over weekends is lower but often followed by an increase on Monday due to catch-up. Click on the graph to view a larger version.

In response to both our own infection rate and that reported in Manchester, we took the decision, supported  by Public Health England (PHE), to move to Tier 3 (under the Department for Education (DfE) definition, not to be  confused with the government’s latest tier structure), and in line with this increased the level of online learning. 

The pattern we are seeing is similar to all the other universities for which we have data, ie a rapid early increase 7–10 days after students arrive, which corresponds with the known incubation period for the virus, followed by a decline.

This decline in infections is encouraging but they could increase again, particularly in light of high infections in our region. The new local testing site may result in an increase as more students and staff are able to access tests. We remain committed to having robust COVID security measures in place, many of which exceed what is required. Our risk assessments are kept under review and have been developed with our trade unions.

We are due to review our DfE tier status on 23 October, which we will do with Public Health experts. We very much hope that we will be able to return to more in-person teaching as soon as possible because we know how much it is valued by our students. We will do so only if expert advice suggests that this is safe to do so.