A milestone was reached at the end of last week as Loughborough reported just 36 cases in the 7 days until Sunday – the lowest case rate since the end of September.
The case rate of 51 per 100,000 remains higher than the English national average of 32, but remains the lowest since students returned to campus almost exactly six months ago.
The last time a weekly rolling figure less than the current case rate were reported was on September 30th, when 21 cases were detected in the previous 7 days.
The closest trough in cases since was in the week to December 10th, when 51 cases were reported just at the end of the national lockdown.
Cases have remained low in predominantly-student areas, with both the Shelthorpe & Woodthorpe and Lemyngton & Hastings areas suffering the brunt of the cases in recent weeks – both of which are family areas with schools.
Overall, however, cases have continued to descend throughout March – despite additional students returning earlier in the month to begin practical studies.
However, with the re-opening of leisure, outdoor hospitality and personal care next week, it is likely that cases will begin to rise once again.
The government hopes, however, that the good progress shown so far in the vaccination programme will prevent these additional cases turning into hospitalisations and deaths.
Rob Mitchell, the Chief Executive at Charnwood Borough Council commented on the next stage of unlocking, saying that “There is light at the end of the tunnel and these new steps offer ways to meet up with friends and family in limited numbers outdoors, where it is less likely for the virus to spread.”
However, he warned that all residents “need to continue to follow the restrictions, be sensible and keep everyone safe.”
No Relaxation for Universities?
Despite the relaxation in the rest of society, a review into students returning after Easter for in-person teaching has not yet been released by the Government – a move which the University’s Chief Operating Officer has called ‘grossly unfair’.
The university had originally planned “for all students to return to the University at the end of the Easter vacation for in-person teaching”, but these are now on hold due to the delay in government updates.
>95% of students being regularly tested @lborouniversity
Only 4 cases (all asymptomatic) in last 7 days
>60% Lboro students have already returned to their term-time accommodation without any significant outbreak of cases this term.
Case rates well below regional averages.
— Richard Taylor (@RichardTaylor_) March 27, 2021
The lack of change for universities will see it become legal to go to a theme park, but remain illegal to study in what Universities argue are ‘COVID-secure environments’ such as lecture theatres and seminar rooms.
This is despite the fact that universities were able to hold in-person lectures in all ‘Tier 1 – 3’ restrictions last year, when at one point Loughborough was reporting over 10 times the number of cases it did last week (474 in the 7 days until October 25th).
The University is also now running a programme of mandatory weekly testing for all students on campus, in an attempt to reduce the spread of the virus.
In addition, cases have remained low in over-60 age groups in the town, with the bulk of remaining cases amongst those below the age of 40.
Despite the lack of information from Government, many activities on the University campus will still start to resume over the coming weeks, including the resumption of organised sports.
COO Richard Talor recently announced that it is the University’s “intention to hold sporting fixtures (including IMS) from the week commencing 19th April, Government guidelines permitting”, and that “LSU have informed us that their Socially Distanced Social Club will resume when outdoor licensed areas can recommence activity. At present this is likely to be from 12th April.”
The Vice Chancellor has also been “working with Hall Committees and sport club captains who are developing plans for activities that are consistent with the prevailing Covid rules at the time.”
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