Six universities in England have reported more than 1,000 coronavirus cases among staff and students with all of their host cities and towns facing Tier 2 restrictions.
The University of Durham became the sixth higher education institution in England with more than 1,000 Covid-19 infections on Thursday, after it reported 964 new cases in the last week.
The other institutions are Manchester, Sheffield, Northumbria, and Newcastle.
More than 1,800 students at North East universities have tested positive for coronavirus in the past seven days.
Newcastle University, reported 749 positive cases in the week to Wednesday, a drop from 1,003 recorded the week before.
Many of these institutions have around 30,000 students so over 1,000 cases represents a significant proportion of their students.
There has been an outpouring of anger after students were allowed to return to university only for outbreaks of coronavirus to happen immediately.
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Parents, lecturers and students have been unhappy many young people have been forced into self-isolation almost upon arrival after someone in their flat or block tested positive for coronavirus.
Images of students stuck in flats and sticking post-it notes to their windows have been plastered across the news and social media in recent weeks.
Outbreaks in university accommodations also led to surges in the number of cases locally, drastically changing the outlook of the pandemic in some towns and cities.
The North East and Manchester were already subject to restrictions when universities returned but other areas like Sheffield and Nottingham did not have very high numbers before students arrived.
Several of the cities now have the highest infection rates in the country.
Nottingham has the highest with 922 cases of coronavirus per 100,00, Manchester has 473, Newcastle has 463, Sheffield has 444 and Durham has 337.
With infection rates among the 18-21 age group sometimes seven times higher than the rest of the local population, people have reacted angrily to being placed under lockdown partly because of outbreaks in universities.
The government faces another heated debate over its plans to allow students to return home over Christmas.
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It is understood the government is planning to force universities to teach digitally from December 8 and for all students to stay on campus, before being allowed to return home on December 22.
The proposals were called “unworkable” by the University College Union in a statement to the Guardian.
The National Union of Students said they were investigating if such a move would even be legal.
Universities have insisted they are on top of the problem, but have come under their own criticism for focusing too much on ensuring students moved in rather than on focusing on their well being.
Around 64 universities across the country have had at least one confirmed case of Covid-19, according to an analysis of university responses and media reports.
A Durham University spokesman said: “Over the last seven days, the number of reported positive coronavirus cases in students and staff has been steady, with approximately 100-150 new reported cases each day.
“We are proactively and regularly monitoring and managing the situation with local and national public health experts and taking appropriate action where required.”
Many Durham University students were understood to have returned to the city later than those at other universities, as teaching in Durham starts a week after.
Last week, Durham University asked students living in two colleges to remain on campus for the next week.
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