Students should not foot blame for Northumbria outbreak, pupils and parents say

The blame for a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases at Northumbria University should not be given solely to students, pupils and their parents have said.

A spokesperson for the university, based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, said that as of Friday it was aware of 770 students testing positive – 78 of whom are symptomatic.

Sara from Kent, who chose not to reveal her second name, is helping her daughter Tilly move into a studio flat amid concerns over her safety in her shared accommodation.

Tilly moved into private halls with hundreds of students in September, where her mother said the 19-year-old saw “no evidence of security checks”.

“No one patrols the corridors to see if there are parties going on, so students are breaking the rules with impunity,” Sara, 53, told PA.

“We are lucky that we are in a position to top up her loan and can (move her out) but we shouldn’t have to.

“My daughter’s main take on this is that she doesn’t blame the other students.

“She can see that the university is at fault and thinks that they should have waited until at least January to allow students back.”

Ewan Hillier, who studies film and television production at Northumbria and also lives in halls, said he is not surprised by the rise in cases but felt rule-breaking public figures set a poor example.

“There are accommodations with hundreds of students in and some are not following the rules and mixing … so I am not surprised by the cases,” the 21-year-old from Hexham told PA.

“When you see MPs breaking the Covid rules such as Margaret Ferrier or the bars in parliament open after 10pm … we are young adults who follow what we are told and when rules are unclear and the leaders break the rules themselves how do they expect us to follow them?”

Mr Hillier said he is also disappointed to still not have received his results five days after taking a Covid-19 test – his flatmate tested positive last Saturday.

However social sciences student Ellie Burgoyne, who has been isolating since one of her flatmates tested positive for Covid-19 a week ago, praised the efforts of her halls and fellow students.

“The uni and accommodation have been great in providing support and keeping us as comfortable as possible as not leaving our flat for two weeks isn’t the most fun,” she told the PA news agency.

The 19-year-old first-year said she is aware of at least 20 flats in her accommodation who are now isolating.

Despite the rise in cases, Ms Burgoyne said she felt students have been taking coronavirus guidance seriously.

“I moved a couple of weeks ago and immediately noticed how strict our accommodation was being when it came to students meeting with other flats, trying to have parties etc,” she said.

“I think it’s a common misconception that students haven’t been listening to the guideline … my accommodation has been quiet aside from the odd flat having a few people over.

“I cannot speak for everyone, but this year has definitely not been anywhere near the crazy freshers that it usually is!”