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Explained: What is behind Norwich’s coronavirus case rise?

PUBLISHED: 14:43 12 October 2020 | UPDATED: 14:50 12 October 2020

University of East Anglia vice chancellor David Richardson collecting a Covid-19 test box. Picture: UEA

University of East Anglia vice chancellor David Richardson collecting a Covid-19 test box. Picture: UEA

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The latest figures show coronavirus numbers rising sharply in Norwich - but most of the increase is happening in one area of the city.

This map from Public Health England shows the rise in cases in Norwich is being driven by the UEA outbreak. The darker the colour, the higher the number of cases recorded (October 1-7). Image: PHE This map from Public Health England shows the rise in cases in Norwich is being driven by the UEA outbreak. The darker the colour, the higher the number of cases recorded (October 1-7). Image: PHE

There were 106 cases recorded in Norwich in the first week of October, with the neighbourhoods around the University of East Anglia accounting for around half of them.

A map from Public Health England shows 46 cases were clocked in the University of East Anglia neighbourhood between October 1 and 7 and another 10 in the area next to it - Bowthorpe and West Earlham.

The UEA has its own voluntary testing regime, meaning it should be picking up more cases.

In Mile Cross there were no cases between those dates; in Eaton there were four, in Lakenham another four, in Sprowston none.

Norwich is not in the midst of a large outbreak yet, but things can change very quickly.

A week ago the UEA was held up in a national newspaper as an example of a university which had a very small number of Covid-19 cases.

While northern university towns and cities were experiencing a mass outbreak, the voluntary student testing at the UEA was hailed as a way forward.

“Nigh on two weeks after students arrived, it does not feel we are witnessing a major outbreak,” vice-chancellor David Richardson told the Sunday Times on October 4.

The number of cases recorded last week in Great Yarmouth fell slightly. Image: PHEThe number of cases recorded last week in Great Yarmouth fell slightly. Image: PHE

However, by Wednesday, October 7, the UEA confirmed 30 students had tested positive, by Thursday it was up to 43 and by Friday 73.

Of those, 47 were on campus and 26 living off campus. We have asked the UEA for the current figure today.

The university said there were 30 flats where students were self-isolating.

It also said it was working with Public Health to track the contacts of those who have tested positive.

“We are offering support to all students who are self-isolating and ensuring we are doing everything possible to reassure students, staff, parents and the wider community of Norwich, which has a lower rate of infection compared to other areas of the country,” a spokesman said.

The rise at the UEA does not mean that there will automatically be an increase in cases in the wider population or more restrictions in Norwich.

Norwich may now have the highest case rate in Norfolk, at 75.4 infections per 100,000 people, but that is still half the rate for England, which stands at 145.

There is also better news in Great Yarmouth where cases fell slightly in the last week after a week of rising.

Today the Government will unveil its three-tier system for England, with harsher restrictions in place for areas with the highest number of cases.

Norwich and Norfolk are unlikely to face any extra restrictions at this point.

What happens next is up to how careful we follow precautions and how successful local and national contact tracing is.


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