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Coronavirus: University of Cambridge cases drive city’s Covid-19 infection rate over 100 per 100,000

Cases of Covid-19 at the University of Cambridge have driven a significant rise in the city’s infection rate.

The university confirmed that its weekly screening programme had detected 154 positive cases in the week of October 12-18, four and a half times as many as the previous week (October 5-11), when 34 were recorded.

The rise reflects the return of students to the university early in the month.

University cases will make up many of the 139 laboratory-confirmed cases confirmed in Cambridge in the seven days to October 20.

The latest infection rate in the city is 111.4 cases per 100,000 people.

While some reports have suggested a case rate of more than 100 per 100,000 people is one of the triggers for moving an area from tier 1 to 2 of the government’s three-tier coronavirus restrictions, a range of factors are considered, including hospitalisation rates and the numbers of cases affecting the elderly and vulnerable in a population.

The city has recorded one coronavirus-related death in the last 28 days.

On Tuesday, Addenbrooke’s had nine people on its wards with the coronavirus, while neighbouring Royal Papworth Hospital had five.

Three areas of the city have recorded significant outbreaks.

Central and West Cambridge, which features many of the university’s colleges, had 60 cases in the seven days to October 17, which has taken its infection rate above the national average, according to Public Health England data.

Meanwhile, Eddington and Castle, another area with a significant student population, had 30, while the neighbourhood around Queen Edith’s and Addenbrooke’s had 21.

Trumpington, with 11 lab-confirmed cases, was the next worst-hit, with every other part of the city recording numbers below 10..

Encouragingly, three areas of the city - Coleridge, King’s Hedges and Romsey - had 0-2 cases in the seven-day period.

Hundreds of University of Cambridge students are now isolating amid efforts to prevent the broader spread of the virus.

Among the colleges affected is Homerton , which told 223 students to isolate at its West House freshers’ block accommodation from 9.30pm on October 16 after 18 positive cases were recorded, amid reports of partying in corridors, rooms and a marquee.

Downing College is also affected, with Varsity reporting that it had 21 confirmed cases on Wednesday afternoon (October 21), which had led to 130 students self-isolating across 27 households.

The university is carrying out mass asymptomatic screening weekly by using testing pools. In the latest data, it asked two students from each pool to take a swab. There were 3,675 valid swabs taken in the week of October 12-18, with 34 positive results.

It detected a further 120 cases in the week through its symptomatic testing, among 411 students and staff tested.

The university said of the programme: “We anticipate a significant number of positive asymptomatic cases due to the proactive nature of our testing.

“The figures are not comparable with other institutions that are conducting symptomatic - but not asymptomatic - tests. Our approach allows us to identify cases early, support students to self-isolate and therefore minimise transmission by reducing the time between infection and identification.”

Elsewhere in Cambridgeshire, infection rates were well below 50 cases per 100,000 people in the seven-day period to October 20, and actually fell in most districts.

South Cambridgeshire’s rate, for example, dropped from 69.8 cases per 100,000 to 42.7, while East Cambridgeshire’s fell from 61.2 to 34.5.

However, most neighbourhoods have clusters of cases, underscoring the importance of following public health advice to maintain physical distancing, follow the rule of six, wash hands and wear masks.

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