University students in Lincoln who tested positive with coronavirus might not be appearing in local data due to an issue with the national test and trace system, health bosses in Lincolnshire said.
Lincolnshire County Council’s public health department is calling on those in charge to look into an issue with how addresses are handled. They revealed the system is overriding the term time address of those who test positive with their home address.
Director of Public Health Professor Derek Ward said the reason was that system connects through the pupils’ registered GP.
So for example, if a student from Liverpool catches COVID-19 while living in Lincoln, but hasn’t yet registered with a GP in the city, their statistics appear in the Liverpool region.
The statement is also true the other way around, for example a Gainsborough student who tests positive in Manchester could appear in Lincolnshire statistics.
Mr Ward said: “It’s causing some challenges, which is why we’re working so closely with the university, which has actually got really good data on this.
“They’re asking students to tell them directly and that’s really helping us to understand what’s really going on.”
He said students had “good reasons” to tell the university if they test positive in order to receive the support packages on offer.
However, he added he could not know for sure what the margin for error was on data around university students with coronavirus.
On Wednesday, the University of Lincoln and Bishop Grosseteste University confirmed a combined total of 44 cases.
The number of students testing positive has not yet sparked an outbreak due to the spread of cases and a lack of link between them. For instance, they do not take classes together or gather in the same place.
It is also unclear how many of the students already had the virus when they arrived and how many caught it when they came to the city.
Professor Ward said: “With the university, we’ve got tens of thousands of students spread out across the county, and when you increase the population by that we’re going to see positives.
“The question is, are they all linked together, or are they just because we’ve got another 20,000 students coming to the county over the past month or so?
“At the moment, because we’re working really closely with the university, those positives are spread out across the city. There doesn’t seem to be a common link.”