University of Portsmouth and Hampshire police praise 'fantastic' student response to curtail Covid-19

SENIOR staff at the University of Portsmouth have said they are ready for thousands of students to return to the city next week, with no Covid-19 cases recorded among students in the last fortnight.

Friday, 5th March 2021, 8:15 pm
Updated Friday, 5th March 2021, 9:23 pm

During a meeting with Portsmouth City councillors today, university staff presented data to demonstrate the ‘fantastic’ efforts made by students to curtail the spread of Covid-19.

There is ‘very little evidence’ that outbreaks in students’ halls of residence spill over to the wider community, according to Professor Bob Nichol, pro-vice chancellor of research and innovation.

He added: ‘The data from last October confirms that (students) did comply with the guidelines. They didn’t spread it to the community. Half of our students have probably already had it.’

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Student Emily Gittings waiting to have her test done at the mobile testing centre last year. Picture: Habibur Rahman

The university has performed more than 23,000 tests on staffs and students since September, with more than 400 tests carried out every day.

Following the return of 1,500 health care and teacher training students in January, the university is now preparing for the return of 3,000 more students on Monday.

During the meeting, Inspector Marcus Kennedy from Hampshire police said the majority have been ‘excellent’ - with isolated incidents.

In October, police broke up a party attended by more than 50 people in university accommodation. This year two parties have been reported in Catherine House.

The Covid testing centre at the Eldon Building car park. Picture: Duncan Shepherd

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The university has streamlined its disciplinary process to deal with a string of rule-flouting parties, with all of those responsible agreeing to be tested and producing a negative Covid-19 result, according to Chris Chang, pro-vice chancellor of global engagement.

He said: ‘On the whole, our students have followed the guidelines.

‘There have been some parties, and we have dealt with them quite rapidly. And we have streamlined our disciplinary process to deal with them.’

Punishments – which vary from warnings to expulsion – depend in part on whether the students have shown remorse and taken a Covid-19 test, according to the pro-vice chancellor.

In preparation for the influx of returning students, the university has also expanded work to address growing concerns about young people’s mental health.

Staff trained to respond in person to serious concerns and incidents will now be on call in the evening and at weekends.

Chris said: ‘We have been aware of the mental health impact from the beginning of the pandemic.

‘We have a 24/7 online support service. Any time, night or day, they can text or call, and they can talk to a professional councillor.

‘But it’s not enough. What they need is a return of face-to-face interaction.’

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