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Covid-19 Cases on the Rise in St Andrews

At this point, the Main Library staff must be getting fed-up of seeing my face, given how much I’ve been there recently to pick up Lateral Flow Test kits. It seems like within the past three weeks, everyone I know has either had Covid-19, been in isolation, or has had a story about someone they know in a similar position. In the ‘Bubble’ of St Andrews, conversation spreads rapidly and, given the close nature of the town, so can Covid-19.

At the moment, every time someone coughs, sneezes, or so much as clears their throat, they are quick to make sure everyone knows, “It’s not Covid, I took a Lateral Flow!”

But such reassurances have been necessary within the recent weeks as there has been a huge spike in Covid cases in St Andrews. From 1 September 2021, there have been a total of 324 positive cases of Covid. 103 of those cases have been since 11 November 2021. (Information regarding Covid cases within the University can be found here. The numbers are updated weekly).

The spike in cases came after Welly Ball which was held on 6 November. 2,000 students were in attendance from a dozen universities.

Even though the event was only open to people who were fully vaccinated, at least 20 cases are known to be linked directly to the gathering.

The BBC reported that Dr Joy Tomlinson, director of public health at NHS Fife, said testing was a “vital” part of preventing the spread of the virus. Dr Tomlinson confirmed that “a total of 20 people with links to the dinner have since tested positive for Covid-19, however, as people are mixing more it remains possible that some of those people who have contracted the virus may have done so in other social settings. With an increasing number of gatherings taking place indoors due to the drop in temperatures, people across Fife are being reminded to take the necessary steps to reduce the risk of catching and spreading the virus.”

Professor Clare Peddie, vice-principal in education at the University of St Andrews discussed how “The Scottish government’s declared policy of ‘living with’ the virus rather than trying to eradicate it means that spikes like this are to be expected.

“The ongoing work of our Covid rapid response team means that we’re quick to pick up on changes in infection rate in our community, and quick to respond.”

When I’ve chatted to people about the spikes, most have agreed that we need to find a way to ‘live with’ the virus – the problem is where to find the balance between living life and being Covid-aware. If I go to a gathering with 20 people, do I then go to the union on a Friday night with 200 people? What about Mermaid’s Christmas Ball with around 2,000?

These decisions, from what I’ve gathered, seem to be what people are finding difficult. No one wants to get Covid, especially within the next few weeks as students start to head back home, many of whom will be travelling internationally and so need a negative PCR test. But people also want to enjoy their university experience!

Perhaps a rise in cases is to be expected, especially with numerous big events such as Welly Ball taking place. That’s not to say, however, that we are powerless in preventing a huge spike. Not to sound too much like I’m in a news conference, but wearing masks and taking regular lateral flows are small yet effective steps towards stopping the spread. Make yourself familiar with the St Andrews pick-up points for testing kits and take regular tests, especially before going to events and as soon as you hear that someone you have been in contact with has tested positive.

Aside from doing these small things to help stop Covid spikes, I would encourage everyone to live their life as far as they are comfortable with and as far as the rules allow.

Emma Gatrell

St Andrews '24

Hi, I'm Emma! I'm studying History at St Andrews. Things I love include good books, cats, and drinking lots of tea.
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