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Missing Covid-19 testing kits ‘did not affect timing’ of freshers’ block lockdown at University of Cambridge’s Homerton College

Homerton College has said errors in the allocation of Covid-19 testing kits did not affect the timing of its decision to lock down its freshers’ accommodation block.

Eighteen students tested positive for the coronavirus across 11 households at the University of Cambridge college’s West House.

Homerton College. (42822737)
Homerton College. (42822737)

The college asked all 223 students in the accommodation block to isolate for 14 days from 9.30pm on October 16.

The positive cases came amid reports that freshers had been partying in rooms, corridors and a marquee erected to enable students to eat outdoors - and had been told by college dean Zoe Jaques last week that they could have landed themselves on-the-spot fines if police had been called.

This week, it has emerged that some students did not get their testing kits as part of the university-wide weekly screening programme.

In a statement, the college said: “The university’s asymptomatic Covid-19 screening programme was instrumental in detecting the outbreak at West House, and enabling Homerton College and the university’s incident management team to act quickly and decisively.

“Last week, there was an administrative error in the database of Homerton students, and we understand that some students who had been told to expect a testing kit, did not receive it. This is unfortunate, and clearly distressing for the students concerned. It is being looked into by the college and the university, but did not affect the decision, or the timing of the decision, to place West House in self-isolation.”

Announcing the self-isolation last Friday, the college said: “Following advice from Public Health England and local public health authorities, the collegiate university’s incident management team has asked 223 students resident in West House, Homerton College, to self-isolate from 9.30pm on Friday 16 October following 18 positive cases.

“Those who are not already in self-isolation must isolate for 14 days and anyone who was already isolating must finish their 14-day period. All other areas of the university and Homerton College remain open.

“This step has been taken based on information from the university’s rigorous testing programme, designed to detect outbreaks of infection early and allow the collegiate university to respond rapidly. In consultation with local public health authorities, the university and the college have taken this preventative step to reduce the chance of transmission within the wider college, the university and the city.

“The students in affected households are self-isolating, and the college has brought in additional staff over the weekend to support them. Advice on medical issues and support for mental health and wellbeing is being made available.”

Across the university, there were 154 cases confirmed in the week of October 12-18, compared to 34 the previous week.

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