The University’s testing service has confirmed 208 cases of COVID-19 among students and staff for the week 17th-23rd October, with a positivity rate of 24.5%. This is a slight increase from last week’s 197 cases and brings the total number of cases since the implementation of the testing service on August 20th to 496.
The University’s Status and Response website states that the figures released do not include positive test results received outside of the University testing service. It notes further that “due to the time interval between a test being done and the result becoming available, it is expected that there will be a mismatch between actual results and those confirmed to us on any given day”.
The new rise in cases follows a number of outbreaks at individual colleges, as well as matriculation day last Saturday, where crowds of students were gathered around the Rad Cam. The Oxford Mail reported “anger” from fellow students, staff, and residents about large numbers of students drinking and partying in the streets.
On Saturday, The Oxford Student reported that St. John’s College had paused all in-person teaching for the next fortnight. An email sent from catering staff confirmed that as many as 150 students were receiving meals in isolation.
Councils across Oxfordshire have urged the UK Government to move the county into Tier 2 COVID-19 restrictions. In a statement, leader of Oxfordshire County Council Ian Hudspeth said: “In light of the escalating situation across the county, we are pushing hard for Oxfordshire to be moved to a high alert level. This would be a preventative measure to stem the spread of the virus and protect the county’s most vulnerable residents.”
However, speaking to the Oxford Blue, a spokesperson for Oxford City Council stressed that “it was not the COVID situation in the city that led to the collective decision to seek Tier 2 status across Oxfordshire. It was the rise in cases across neighbouring districts and among non-student demographics that was of particular concern.”
In a press release on Thursday, Oxfordshire County Council’s Director for Public Health Ansaf Azhar urged the public to “limit their social interactions” and reminded residents that “with half-term approaching, as well as events such as Halloween, Bonfire Night and Diwali coming up, it’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement of meeting up and celebrating with friends and family. But we mustn’t forget about COVID. We need to do everything we can to keep our families and communities safe and stop the spread.”
The University has implemented a four-stage emergency response, depending on how wide the spread of COVID-19 is. The current status is Stage 2, which allows the University to operate “in line with social distancing restrictions with as full a student cohort as possible on site”, with teaching and assessment taking place “with the optimum combination of in-person teaching and online learning”. A Stage 3 response would imply “no public access to the University or College buildings” and “gatherings for staff and students only permitted where essential for teaching and assessment to take place”.