Coronavirus: 155 University of Portsmouth students isolating after testing positive for Covid-19

MORE than 150 students are self-isolating after testing positive for Covid-19 amid a three-day outage in the university’s testing regime due to a backlog.

Thursday, 22nd October 2020, 4:52 pm
Updated Thursday, 22nd October 2020, 7:51 pm

It comes as Portsmouth’s infection rate of 135.9 per 100,000 people neared that of towns entering stricter lockdown – but public health officials say the city will not currently follow suit.

The University of Portsmouth confirmed that as of October 21, 155 students and one staff member are isolating following testing positive.

A spokeswoman said 118 people with symptoms were identified through the NHS Test and Trace scheme, while 37 were tested in the institution’s asymptomatic regime.

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Covid testing being held for asymptomatic staff and students at University of Portsmouth in Milldam car park, Portsmouth. Picture: Habibur Rahman

The asymptomatic testing site at Milldam – for staff and students – was suspended for three days after delays built up on tests done on October 15 and 16.

The walk-through site at Eldon building in the city centre, bookable via gov.uk was not affected.

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Among those who have tested positive is student Saskia Hedley, 22, who is currently self-isolating at her home in Jessie Road, Southsea.

University of Portsmouth student Saskia Hedley

She received a positive result six days after taking a test on October 15 – and was not isolating beforehand as she was asymptomatic.

Saskia said: ‘I was told there was no requirement to isolate as I didn’t show symptoms, so I continued about my usual activities as normal – shopping, gym, lectures.

‘I had been told by the healthcare worker who did my test that I would be contacted by text within 24 hours.

‘It reached four days and I had heard nothing so I asked university staff for advice. I was told that it’s likely there could be a backlog and that positive test results would be prioritised, so I could assume it to be negative.’

She tried to check with NHS Track and Trace but the service had no record of her.

By day six Saskia, who has since lost her sense of taste, received an e-mail warning she proved positive for the virus.

Saskia, who said she and four friends who went to Astoria in Guildhall Walk on October 8 tested positive, said: ‘I would’ve been spreading the virus in supermarkets, town, gym, uni and more.

‘My housemates also went home to visit vulnerable family in Kent and Surrey, spreading it even further afield.

‘I’m aware there could be a backlog of tests but I’m so angry my positive result was not prioritised, especially as I was not isolating.’

A university spokeswoman said the institution is committed to running its asymptomatic testing.

On the delays, she said: ‘This was out of our control due to an unforeseen regional surge in testing demand across the local NHS diagnostic testing labs.

‘This was compounded by ongoing national shortages in testing capacity well-reported in the media over the last few weeks.

‘As soon as we were aware of the issue we paused our own testing process for three days to enable the backlog to be dealt with. Asymptomatic testing has now resumed at our Milldam site.

‘We are sorry for the delay and any uncertainty this caused but it was out of our control. We are reviewing our processes to find improvements where necessary and reduce the risk of future issues.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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