University accommodation fees waived as COVID-19 ‘very nearly out of control in Cornwall’

Simon Cobb/Performance Centre, Falmouth University/CC BY 2.0
Tim Green/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

Local officials in Cornwall have emphasised the severity of rising COVID-19 case numbers in the county and the importance of following lockdown rules. University accommodation rent charges are being waived as students are urged not to return to Cornwall.

Rachel Wigglesworth, director of public health for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, warned yesterday that COVID-19 “is very nearly out of control in Cornwall” and dismissed arguments that increasing case numbers had been caused by visitors from outside the county.

Councillor Julian German, leader of Cornwall Council, urged that people in the county “take the lockdown seriously”.

The council has described how case numbers “are rising dramatically in Cornwall”. The county has seen approximately two thirds of its total COVID-19 cases in the last two months alone.

Ms Wigglesworth illustrated how there were previously the equivalent of two busloads of people with COVID-19 in Cornwall, with that figure recently increasing to 26 busloads. She warned that the number could soon rise to 50 busloads.

She added that, prior to the announcement of a new national lockdown, Cornwall had asked to be placed under tier four restrictions, indicating the highest alert level.

While Cornwall was one of the only areas placed under tier one restrictions at the start of December, the case rate began to increase, and the county was placed in tier two from Boxing Day and tier three five days later, partly due to a new variant of COVID-19 that is between 50% and 70% more transmissible.

Ms Wigglesworth pointed out that the increasing case rate in Cornwall marked “a more rapid increase certainly than anywhere else in the South West but also nationally, so this is a serious situation for Cornwall”.

Under the new lockdown rules, university students cannot return to their term-time accommodation, and teaching will take place remotely, with some exceptions.

Falmouth and Exeter students with university-managed or nominated accommodation do not have to pay rent fees until at least mid-February, provided that they do not return to their accommodation.

Falmouth University Chief Operating Officer Peter Cox is asking for government support, stating that rent money is important for “the educational mission of the universities”.