University students 'vulnerable' to Coronavirus



by: SOUMIK SAHA


Almost one out of five university students of England was infected with the coronavirus by the end of autumn 2020, a study by Public Health England revealed this week.

Antibodies to the virus was detected in 17.8% of university students between the age of 17 to 25 in a survey conducted between 2nd to 11th of December 2020.

An estimated 49% of students from halls of residence were found to have antibodies, which shows the extent of spread within these dwellings when cases were high.

“University students may be vulnerable because of their living conditions. It is difficult staying away from each other if you are sharing a room. The air that you are breathing in an enclosed space makes you vulnerable”, said Soobi Gutta an NHS Nurse from West Drayton.

The National Union of Students reacted tempestuously when IKB Insider brought the report to their notice: “It is concerning, but not surprising, that almost one in five students had been found to have covid-19 antibodies. The handling of the pandemic by government has been incredibly poor throughout, and students have paid the price.”

The report also revealed that, the proportion of university students with antibodies to COVID-19 was highest amongst younger students, most likely to represent first-year. Students aged 17 to 19 were found to be 4.1 times more vulnerable to the virus than 23 to 25 year olds.

Professor Viv Benette, Chief Nurse and Covid-19 lead for Children and Young People at PHE said: “This study shows most students are likely to still be susceptible to COVID-19 infection and even without developing symptoms could pass the virus on to others.”

This report has added to the anxiety of many students. Sahil Basra, a management student from West Drayton said: “A road map to lifting lockdown was announced, but there was no mention about plans regarding universities. It’s frustrating. We are doing all our classes online and yet paying full course fee.”

Aditya Kadam, a post-graduate student from Yiewsley said: “The government needs to come up with plans for our safe return to the campus. I am losing out on my student life experience. I am ready to attend university with restrictions.”

The report however, highlights the importance of precautions. Regular rapid testing so students can self-isolate to stop the spread was suggested. “Students can help protect each other”, said Professor Viv Bennett.

Lead investigator Gayatri Amirthalingam, a Consultant Medical Epidemiologist at PHE said, “This study gives the first evidence of the extent of spread of COVID-19 infection amongst university students in England during the autumn term.”

The Department of Education was contacted and IKB is awaiting a response.


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