Oxford back on Amber Alert as cases rise, University says students “understand their responsibility”

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Oxford has been placed back on amber alert and is close to the threshold for local restrictions after a significant increase in coronavirus cases this week, and speaking to The Oxford Student today, the University assures that its students are “great citizens who understand their responsibility.” 

The seven days to the 25th September saw 67 new cases, taking the weekly rate of infection to 43.9 per 100,000, close to 50, the threshold for a red alert. There were 19 cases reported in East Central Oxford between the 20th and 26th of September, alongside 11 new cases in both Cowley and Churchill. 

On the 23rd September, 30 cases were reported at Oxford Brookes University following an illegal large gathering, but a representative of the University spoke at the Virtual Town Hall on Monday to assure the public that they had acted quickly to get the outbreak under control. The vast majority of the new reported cases were in the 18-24 age category. 

Ansaf Azhar, the Director of Public Health for Oxfordshire, commented: “We have seen a considerable increase in cases in Oxford. While this mirrors what is happening nationally, we must remember that cases in Oxford have doubled over the past week and the situation can deteriorate further very quickly. 

If we don’t all take this very seriously, we risk seeing tough local restrictions imposed that none of us want. We have recently seen many other parts of the country go into lockdown. This is something we all want to avoid. But if cases continue to rise at the rate they have been doing, then we may have no choice. 

My plea is a simple one – keep your distance, wash your hands, wear a mask, and ensure you are adhering to the rule of six. It’s up to all of us to bring the virus under control. The latest figures are a stark warning that we must act now. We need to slow the rate before it’s too late.”

Students registered at the Beaumont Street GP practice have received a message today from the surgery urging them to diligently social distance and take all necessary precautions, highlighting the impact of COVID-19 on the wider community. The text read:

“COVID cases in Oxford have doubled in the space of a week & are now a significant risk. Please play your part to help stop the spread: keep your distance, wash your hands regularly, wear a face-covering & stick to the rule of six. You may not experience the worst symptoms yourself if you catch the virus, but you may pass it onto loved ones who do. If you get symptoms, self-isolate immediately and call 119 to book a test. – 19 Beaumont St Surgery”

The vast majority of Oxford students will be arriving next week, which raised some local concerns at last Monday’s Virtual Town Hall. However, speaking to The Oxford Student today, Baroness Jan Royall, co-chair of the Michaelmas Coordination Group, said that “[residents] can take comfort from the fact that [all colleges] are acting together and we want our students to behave as they should do.” 

“We all believe that the vast majority of students are great human beings, they are great citizens who understand their responsibility towards each other, towards the community in which we all live, and to our older members of staff.” 

“Of course, we have to have disciplinary policies just in case people do offend again.” 

When asked about whether these disciplinary policies would be standardised between colleges, Baroness Royall said that the University would not be setting a benchmark, as “smaller breaches” should be looked at on an individual basis by college deans, but she added that they are trying to be as coherent as possible. She added that, for people who commit offences in the “wider world”, she hopes there will be complete consistency across colleges.

When asked whether Colleges would impose fines alongside government-issued fines against the same individual, she stressed that “every case will be looked at on its merit, but if a student were involved in a house party which was against the law, of course, the police would step in… but I think you’ll find all Colleges would also want to take action because this would be bringing the college, indeed the whole University into disrepute.” 

“We have a very fine University and we want our reputation to be outstanding throughout.”

Make sure to stay up to date with all the latest University and Covid-19 news by following The Oxford Student on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

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