40 staff and students at Sheffield Hallam University test positive for coronavirus

At least 40 university students and staff in Sheffield are self-isolating after being struck down with coronavirus.

Just over a week after arriving back in the city to study, Sheffield Hallam University confirmed that it is aware of 40 confirmed cases among its "University community".

Those infected are self-isolating for a fortnight in a bid to prevent the virus from spreading and the university says the cases are not clustered within one single block of accommodation.

A spokesperson for Sheffield Hallam University said: "We are aware of 40 confirmed cases among our University community.

"These cases are not clustered within a particular student accommodation setting and all those students, and others in their household, are following government guidelines to self-isolate for 14 days.

"The University is providing a range of support for those self-isolating, including food packages, wellbeing support and medicine for those that need it."

The university said that once it is made aware of a positive test, procedures are followed and contacts are informed through track and trace.

The spokesman added: "Once we are notified of a positive test we will follow procedures to ensure public health partners are aware and contacts are informed through track and trace.

"We are working closely with our partner accommodation providers to keep students safe, reminding them of their responsibilities and that they should not meet with other households inside their accommodation.

"The University is managing an unprecedented situation and we will continue to adapt and develop our plans over the weeks ahead, guided by the need to both keep safe and to provide the best possible learning and working experience."

It comes as the University and College Union has issued a Failure to Agree Notice to the university, stating that is it "concerned for the increased risk" a spike in local cases poses to students.

In a statement, the union said:

Many people have reached out to the union for support and guidance on returning to work on campus.  Concern is wide-spread throughout the university.  Management’s decision to provide face to face teaching for all students risks causing a serious outbreak of Coronavirus on our campuses and a local public health crisis.  

University and College Union

The statement continues: "Colleagues are anxious and quite rightly questioning the safety of returning to campus at this time, particularly in light of the recent reports of increasing outbreaks of Covid19 in university campuses across the UK. 

"We are concerned for the increased risk that a spike in local cases poses to our colleagues, our students, our families and for our local community. 

"We believe that the current approach being taken by SHU management risks causing such a spike and overwhelming our already strained NHS clinics and local hospitals, and unnecessarily puts our loved ones in harm’s way."

Members of the UCU Hallam recently voted overwhelmingly to register a "Failure to Agree" notice.

The statement adds: "A letter will be sent to management to outline our concerns and request that SHU adopts a safety first approach to teaching and immediately moves all teaching online that can be delivered online."

In response, a Sheffield Hallam University Spokesperson said:

The University is committed to supporting the welfare of all our students, staff and the local community, and we have put a wide range of measures in place to help keep everyone safe. The vast majority of lectures will be online, but face-to-face teaching is a vitally important part of the learning experience.

Sheffield Hallam University Spokesperson

Adding: "Our extensive preparations mean that we are confident we can deliver these sessions on-campus safely. 

"We will continue to adapt and develop our plans over the days and weeks ahead, guided by the need to both keep people safe and to provide the best possible learning and working experience.

"We are working with UCU and public health teams to keep them updated on our plans, and will be able to move swiftly to full online delivery if necessary."

A reporting form and a list of advice for students on what they need to do if they think they have coronavirus can be found on the university website.