The IT blunder saw some 16,000 positive test results not on Public Health England’s reporting system. It means many areas have been pushed into the top level of the Government’s proposed “three-tier” system – a new traffic-light-style guide to which places should be locked down. Cities expected to be affected include Sheffield, Leeds, Oxford and Nottingham. Restrictions could be brought in from as early as this week.
People in Nottingham, which has two universities, were yesterday urged by the city council to adhere to stricter measures before they are formally introduced.
The city, home to Nottingham University and Nottingham Trent University, has some 70,000 students and was not on the Government’s watch list. But new figures posted on the University of Nottingham’s website showed 425 of its students had been diagnosed with Covid-19 during the week ending last Friday.
They included 226 students in private accommodation and 106 in halls of residence. Eight members of staff were also classed as “active confirmed cases”.
A university spokesman said: “Alongside the national testing regime for people with symptoms of Covid-19, the university has also commenced its own asymptomatic testing programme which will identify cases earlier and more quickly.
“While this will mean that our case data will be higher than other universities, we can identify cases that otherwise would remain undetected.”
The figures mean Nottingham’s infection rate has soared, with 1,465 new cases recorded in the seven days to October 3 – the equivalent of 440 cases per 100,000 people.
Students at The Forge student accommodation at Sheffield Hallam University
This up from 59.5 per 100,000 in the seven days to September 25.
The Department of Health said it did not have collated figures for the total of university students diagnosed across the country.
But Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons that outbreaks on campuses would not necessarily lead to tougher restrictions for the wider community if they could be contained.
Meanwhile figures released by Public Health England yesterday showed Knowsley, in Merseyside, and Liverpool have joined Manchester in having a weekly rate of new cases above 500 per 100,000 people.
Manchester’s rate is the worst in the UK, with 3,105 new cases recorded in the seven days to October 3. This is the equivalent of 561.6 cases per 100,000 people and is up sharply from 261.2 per 100,000 in the previous week.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock
Knowsley has the second worst rate, at 534.3, while Liverpool’s is 516.0. Other areas recording big jumps include Newcastle upon Tyne (now 445.1), Leeds (346.6) and Sheffield (320.4).
Across the UK, a further 14,542 cases were reported yesterday – up nearly 2,000 from the day before.
The number of deaths was 76, up from 19 on Sunday. PHE also revealed there were 478 people admitted to hospital in England on Sunday – the most since early June.
Separately, figures released by the Office for National Statistics showed that 58,101 deaths involving Covid-19 had been registered in the UK.
The statistics were unveiled as Mr Hancock was savaged again in the Commons. This time it was about cancer patients, who, he said, would only be guaranteed treatment if Covid-19 stayed “under control”.
Almost 2.5million people missed out on cancer screening, referrals or treatment at the height of lockdown.
Experts now fear the number of people dying as a result of delays triggered by the virus could end up the same as deaths from the virus.
Meanwhile, the row over the NHS’s Test and Trace blunder raged on after it was revealed at the weekend that 35,833 new cases, including 16,000 from last week, had not been reported in the daily figures due to a problem with IT.
Ministers admitted that officials had managed to get in touch with only half of the 16,000. Estimates have suggested these people could have as many as 50,000 potentially infectious contacts, who need to be traced and told to isolate.
Mr Hancock said: “Of course the total number of contacts depends on how many contacts each index case has. So that information will be made available in the normal way when it has been completed.”
Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “So, essentially there are thousands of people who have been exposed to the virus who are probably wandering around not knowing they’ve been exposed and could be infecting people.”