Coronavirus UK: 474 students and five staff members test positive at Sheffield University

Nearly 500 people have tested positive for coronavirus at the University of Sheffield in a mass outbreak of the disease likely to cause panic.

According to an online tracker on the university’s website, 474 students and five staff members have tested positive for Covid-19 September 28.

Sheffield University has around 8,000 staff members and usually hosts 29,000 students on its campus every academic year. 

A spokesman said those affected by coronavirus were following Government guidelines and that support is available. It is understood that no whole student accommodation blocks are in lockdown at the moment.

It comes as more than 750 students at Northumbria University, in Newcastle, are confined to their dorms after nearly 800 people tested positive for coronavirus.

The spokesman said: ‘We recognise how difficult it is for students who are new to Sheffield and need to self-isolate because of Covid-19 cases.

‘To make sure we are supporting students in the best way possible, we will contact all students who are self-isolating to check on their welfare and offer practical and emotional support.’ 

The weekly coronavirus rate in Sheffield for the seven days to October 1 now stands at 233.1 new cases per 100,000 people.

In other coronavirus developments today: 

  • Chancellor Rishi Sunak warned that he will ‘balance the books’ after the coronavirus crisis in a hint that taxes will rise and there will be spending cuts; 
  • Official figures updated with the missed cases show that, based on the date on which samples were taken rather than when the result was published, the UK’s daily rate has not been below 6,000 since September 21;  
  • Ministers are putting the finishing touches to a traffic-light system which could pave the way for harsher restrictions like pub closures in certain areas;
  • Next year’s school exams would be delayed by three weeks as the crisis rolls on;
  • Mr Sunak is ‘frustrated’ by the 10pm pubs curfew and has ‘no regrets’ about Eat Out to Help Out – despite Mr Johnson suggesting it fueled Covid cases; 
  • Trials of an air passenger testing regime are expected to begin within weeks in a victory for the Mail’s Get Britain Flying campaign;
  • Health minister Lord Bethell claimed Britain will look back at its Covid-19 response ‘like the Olympics’ and be ‘extremely proud’

Nearly 500 people have tested positive at the University of Sheffield. The weekly Covid rate in Sheffield for the seven days to October 1 now stands at 233.1 new cases per 100,000 people

The daily totals rocketed over the weekend after the 'glitch' resulted in officials adding on thousands of cases that were missed last week. However, that merely shows the dates the cases were reported, rather than when the positive tests happened

The weekly rate of new infections has soared in dozens of areas of England following the addition of nearly 16,000 that had previously been unreported nationwide 

The new data have now been added to the government's systems. Based on the date on which samples were collected, rather than when the result was published, the UK's daily rate has not been below 6,000 since September 21

The new data have now been added to the government’s systems. Based on the date on which samples were collected, rather than when the result was published, the UK’s daily rate has not been below 6,000 since September 21

Manchester has the highest rate in England, with 2,740 cases recorded in the seven days to October 1 – the equivalent of 495.6 cases per 100,000 people, up from 223.2 the week before

There have been new fears over tighter restrictions in Sheffield after nearly 300 Covid-19 cases were recorded in a single day.

In Newcastle, 770 students have tested positive for coronavirus and are self-isolating for 14 days in line with Government guidance.  

Newcastle University confirmed it has had 94 students and seven staff test positive, though a spokeswoman said the ‘overwhelming majority of cases’ were from ‘social and domestic settings’.

Leaked document reveals possible pub closures and ban on ALL social contact outside your household under proposed red, amber, green ‘traffic-light’ system 

Ministers are planning tough new ‘red alert’ lockdowns, with a leaked document revealing that all social contact outside homes could be banned under the most extreme part of a proposed ‘traffic-light-style’ system, according to reports.

The new three-tier system includes an Alert Level Three which will include tough new restrictions – which almost parallel the complete lockdown measures imposed in March.

These include closing all hospitality and leisure business and banning contact with anyone outside a person’s household in any setting.

Non-professional sports will also be stopped – though places of worship will still be allowed to stay open – which was not the case during the original coronavirus lockdown.

It comes as the UK recorded 23,000 new coronavirus infections on Sunday following a ‘technical glitch’ which meant thousands of cases were initially missed off the official data.

The tough new red measures, outlined in a leaked document seen by The Guardian, will only be imposed either nationally or in a specific area if the virus cannot be controlled by measures in Alert Level Two or if an area sees a ‘significant increase in transmission’.

Measures for ‘Alert Level Two’, amber in the traffic light system, include limiting social gatherings to people within a household and support bubble, while travel will be limited to essential purposes.

Alert Level Two will be triggered when there has been a rise in infections and local measures cannot control it.

Meanwhile Alert Level One, green, will include the measures that are already in place, such as the ‘rule of six’, the 10pm Covid curfew on hospitality businesses and the wearing of face masks in public places such as supermarkets and public transport.

According to the Guardian, A Whitehall source said the levels were intended to be ‘minimum standards’.

The source added that specific local circumstances in each area would also be taken into account.

University and College Union (UCU) said it warned Northumbria University that it was ‘far too soon for a mass return to campus’.

In a statement the UCU said: ‘We told Northumbria University they had a civic duty to put the health of staff, students and the local community first and we take no pleasure in now seeing another preventable crisis play out.

‘We warned last month that, given the current restrictions in the region, the direction of the infection rate and the problems with test and trace, it was clearly far too soon for a mass return to campus.’

It comes as Manchester was branded the coronavirus capital of the UK after ‘missed’ new cases were added to its recent tally. 

The weekly rate of new infections has soared in dozens of areas of England following the addition of nearly 16,000 that had previously been unreported nationwide.

Manchester has the highest rate in England, with 2,740 cases recorded in the seven days to October 1 – the equivalent of 495.6 cases per 100,000 people, up from 223.2 in the previous week.

Liverpool has the second highest rate, up from 287.1 to 456.4, with 2,273 new cases.

Knowsley is in third place, up from 300.3 to 452.1, with 682 new cases.

Other areas recording sharp increases include Newcastle upon Tyne (up from 256.6 to 399.6, with 1,210 new cases); Nottingham (up from 52.0 to 283.9, with 945 new cases); Leeds (up from 138.8 to 274.5, with 2,177 new cases); and Sheffield (up from 91.8 to 233.1, with 1,363 new cases). 

It comes after 16,000 coronavirus cases were missed due to a computer glitch – meaning thousands more potentially infected contacts were not traced.

The extraordinary meltdown is believed to have been caused by an Excel spreadsheet containing lab results reaching its maxium size, and failing to update. 

Some 15,841 cases between September 25 and October 2 were not uploaded to the government dashboard.

As well as underestimating the scale of the outbreak in the UK, critically the details were not passed to contact tracers, meaning people exposed to the virus were not tracked down.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey conceded this morning that more Britons ‘may well’ have been infected due to the blunder. 

Boris Johnson was unable even to say how many people were being contact traced in the wake of the bungle.

But he scrambled to play down concerns that ministers have been making pivotal decisions on lockdown without accurate information, saying the outbreak was still in line with where its experts thought. 

The shambolic situation sparked an immediate backlash against PHE – which is already set to be abolished and replaced by the government – with claims ‘everything it touches turns to sh**’.

But the body hit back by pointing the finger at the Test & Trace operation, run by Baroness Dido Harding. ‘We report the data when they send it. We didn’t get it,’ one official told Sky News. 

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock is expected to hold an emergency meeting with angry local mayors about the situation, before what promises to be a bruising appearance in the Commons this evening. 

The technical issue has now been resolved by splitting the Excel files into batches.

PHE officials said the outstanding cases were transferred to NHS Test and Trace ‘immediately’ after the issue was resolved and thanked contact tracers for their ‘additional efforts’ over the weekend to clear the backlog.

Tax rises ARE coming: Rishi Sunak warns he WILL need to balance the books after Covid crisis as he desperately tries to quell rumours of feud with ‘special’ Boris Johnson and vows to protect jobs in speech to Tory faithful 

Rishi Sunak warned of tax rises to come and lavished praise on ‘special’ Boris Johnson today as he tried to quell growing rumours of a feud over lockdown.

The Chancellor hailed the PM as a ‘close personal friend’ and ‘rare’ communicator who had ‘got the big calls right’ as he delivered his keynote speech to Tory conference. He even noted that their families were ‘joined’ and his daughters loved Mr Johnson’s dog Dilyn.

Mr Sunak again conceded that he will not be able to save all jobs, but pointed to the huge government bailouts so far and said his sole priority would be to spread ‘opportunity’.

In a bizarre ‘virtual’ address beset with technical problems, and with Mr Sunak reading awkwardly off an autocue that appeared to be in the wrong place, he also delivered a stark warning that ‘hard choices’ on tax rises and spending cuts will be needed after the immediate crisis passes. 

Mr Sunak said ‘over the medium term’ the government will need to ‘get our borrowing and debt back under control’.

‘This Conservative government will always balance the books,’ he said. 

The speech came after Mr Sunak risked fueling the speculation of tensions with Mr Johnson branded the 10pm pubs curfew ‘frustrating’ and insisted he had ‘no regrets’ about the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

By contrast the PM admitted yesterday that the dining subsidies might have contributed to the sharp rise in coronavirus cases. 

The two men were pictured together visiting an energy firm this morning in an apparent bid to smooth over the situation. 

All cases were passed on to tracers by 1am on Saturday, meaning potential delays of more than a week in contacting thousands of people who were exposed to the virus and telling them to self-isolate. 

PHE said every single person who was tested initially had received their test result as normal, with all those testing positive told to self-isolate.

The technical issue meant daily totals reported on the Government’s coronavirus dashboard over the last week have been lower than the true number.

For example, 4,786 cases which were due to be reported on October 2 were not included in the daily total on the dashboard that day, when the figure was given as 6,968.

The Government’s dashboard said that, as of 9am on Sunday, there had been a further 22,961 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, taking the total number of cases in the UK to 502,978.

A note on the dashboard said: ‘The cases by publish date for 3 and 4 October include 15,841 additional cases with specimen dates between 25 September and 2 October – they are therefore artificially high for England and the UK.’

Michael Brodie, interim chief executive at PHE, said the ‘technical issue’ was identified overnight on Friday October 2 in the data load process that transfers Covid-19 positive lab results into reporting dashboards.

The problem was caused by an Excel spreadsheet reaching its maximum file size, which stopped new names being added in an automated process.

The files have now been split into smaller multiple files to prevent the issue happening again.

Test and Trace and Public Health England joint medical adviser Susan Hopkins said: ‘All outstanding cases were immediately transferred to the contact tracing system by 1am on 3 October and a thorough public health risk assessment was undertaken to ensure outstanding cases were prioritised for contact tracing effectively.’

PHE said NHS Test and Trace have made sure that there are more than enough contact tracers working, and are working with local health protection teams to ensure they also have sufficient resources to be urgently able to contact all cases.

The number of call attempts is being increased from 10 to 15 over 96 hours.

However, in a round of interviews this morning, Ms Coffey admitted that people are likely to have been infected as a consequence of the failures.

Asked if some could have become infected because of the error, she told Sky News: ‘There may well be, and I’ve been made aware that probably the majority of that (contact tracing) has happened in the latest element of the week, in the last couple of days.

‘So it’s important that we act quickly, and PHE (Public Health England) is acting quickly, to see whether or not people are required to self-isolate.

‘Because I do recognise that not quite everybody going through the regime will be identified by the Test and Trace regime to undertake that further self-isolation.’

On a visit to an energy firm in London today, Boris Johnson – who refused to give a full explanation in an interview yesterday – said ‘some of the data got truncated and it was lost’.

Every London borough saw a spike in coronavirus cases last week except Camden, official figures reveal as mayor Sadiq Khan warns the city is at a ‘tipping point’ 

Coronavirus cases are soaring in every part of London except Camden, according to official data.

The capital city so far seems to have been spared the worst of Britain’s second wave of Covid-19, which has been concentrated in the north of England.

But signs are emerging that the virus is rebounding in London, with some boroughs seeing the ratio of positive tests per person more than double in seven days.

Public Health England has put every borough of the city on its watchlist as an area of ‘concern’, meaning it will be monitored closely in the coming days and weeks.

The biggest surge was seen in the leafy suburb of Richmond upon Thames, where cases rose by 154 per cent between September 20 and 27. This happened despite the numbers of tests going down, suggesting it represents a genuine increase.   

Although, PHE statistics show not a single borough has a rate higher than England’s average weekly infection rate of 59 cases per 100,000 people. 

Meanwhile, Camden was the only part of the city to see cases decline in the latter half of September, with the infection rate dropping by 70 per cent. This happened despite more tests being done – the opposite situation to Richmond’s.

London, which was the beating heart of the first wave of the epidemic in spring, is believed to have a higher level of immunity to Covid-19 to the rest of the country – at least one in seven people there are thought to have recovered from the disease already. 


‘But what they have done now is not only contacted all the people who were identified as having the disease – that was done in the first place – but they are now working through all the contacts as well,’ he said.

‘The key thing, I would say, and it goes for everybody, is that if you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace then you must self-isolate, if you are told you have been in contact with somebody who has the virus.

‘There is support of £500 for doing so and of course a £10,000 fine if you don’t.’

Mr Johnson played down concerns that ministers have been taking crucial lockdown decisions without accurate information.

He said the updated figures meant that the prevalence of the virus was where experts had expected, insisting it will soon become clear if extra restrictions for some parts of the country were having the intended impact.

‘The incidence that we are seeing in the cases corresponds to pretty much where we thought we were,’ he said.

‘And, to be frank, I think that the slightly lower numbers that we’d seen, you know, didn’t really reflect where we thought the disease was likely to go, so I think these numbers are realistic.

‘The crucial thing is that in the next few days, week, we’ll see more clearly whether some of the restrictions that we put in – the extra enforcement of the rule of six, the extra enforcement of self-isolation, the rules on masks and so on – all the stuff that has come in, we’ll see whether that starts to work in driving down the virus.’

If people followed the guidance ‘I have no doubt that we will be able to get on top of it, as indeed we did earlier this year’.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: ‘This is shambolic and people across the country will be understandably alarmed.

‘Matt Hancock should come to the House of Commons on Monday to explain what on earth has happened, what impact it has had on our ability to contain this virus and what he plans to do to fix test and trace.’ 

On Saturday, Professor Graham Medley, an attendee of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, tweeted: ‘Reporting delays play havoc with data streams and make them very difficult to analyse in real time.

‘If the delays change or vary by group then they can distort a lot. Wonder what these will do to the R estimates next week’.  

Professor Paul Hunter, an epidemiologist at the University of East Anglia, said last night: ‘Clearly in the management of any epidemic you need good-quality data – without that data it is very difficult to respond. It is a real problem.’

Government adviser Professor Graham Medley, who sits on the Sage emergency panel, said: ‘Reporting delays play havoc with data streams and make them very difficult to analyse in real time. If the delays change or vary by group then they can distort a lot. I wonder what these will do to the R estimates next week?’

PM and Sunak put on united front after Chancellor swipes at ‘frustrating’ 10pm pubs curfew

Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson put on a united front today after the Chancellor branded the 10pm pubs curfew ‘frustrating’ and insisted he had ‘no regrets’ about the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

The two politicians were pictured together visiting an energy firm after Mr Sunak mounted a staunch defence of his subsidies on dining out – despite the PM admitting they might have contributed to the sharp rise in coronavirus cases. 

In an interview ahead of his keynote speech to Tory conference, Mr Sunak said the scheme had propped up two million jobs. 

Cementing his status as the leading Cabinet ‘hawk’ on the need to get the economy running again, he told The Sun: ‘I don’t think it’s wrong for people to want to strive for normality and I don’t think it’s wrong for the Government to want that for people.’ 

The intervention came after Mr Johnson came under fierce questioning over his handling of the crisis, with criticism of chaotic local lockdowns and shambolic testing. He admitted yesterday that he had dropped his ‘buoyant’ style during the pandemic because it was ‘inappropriate’.

By contrast, Mr Sunak has been praised for his tone talking about the impact of the disease, and the speed with which complicated bailouts including furlough were implemented. 

Mr Johnson tried to bridge the apparent gap between their messages yesterday by saying that he wanted the public to be ‘fearless but use common sense’. 

Dr Duncan Robertson, an expert in modelling and policy analytics at Loughborough University, added: ‘It is important to understand the reason for the delay.

‘If this is a reporting delay, that is bad enough, but if there have been delays in putting these cases into the NHS Test and Trace database, that can have serious implications for spreading the disease.’

Critics said if there was a real spike in cases in the coming days it could be missed, because it is impossible to tell which infections are new and which are simply the backlog filtering through.

Mr Johnson and his scientific advisers have repeatedly pointed to rising case numbers to justify tighter regulations.

Local restrictions are dependent on infection data.

A swing of a dozen cases in a week in a small town or borough is enough to be the difference between lockdown being imposed or businesses and families being allowed to continue as normal.

Public Health England interim chief executive Michael Brodie said last night: ‘A technical issue was identified overnight on Friday, October 2, in the data load process that transfers Covid-19 positive lab results into reporting dashboards.

‘After rapid investigation, we have identified that 15,841 cases between September 25 and October 2 were not included in the reported daily Covid-19 cases.

‘Every one of these cases received their Covid-19 test result as normal and all those who tested positive were advised to self-isolate.’

Earlier, in separate hospital data, 28 people were recorded as having died from coronavirus in Britain. 

The figure – ten more than last week – brings the UK’s total death toll during the pandemic to 42,345.  

Scotland has reported 758 new cases and no new deaths. Wales has 432 further cases but its death toll remains the same as no new fatalities were reported. 

All 28 deaths were recorded in England, with 25 in hospitals in the North East, Yorkshire and the Midlands.  

Patients were all aged between 69 and 94 years old and had underlying health conditions. 

The figure comes after a ‘failure in the counting system’ was blamed for coronavirus cases nearly doubling yesterday – as Boris Johnson hinted contact tracing might have been delayed.

Earlier, the PM dodged giving a fuller explanation as he was grilled on the extraordinary spike reported yesterday, with just under 13,000 new cases.