Nottingham has avoided the toughest level of coronavirus restrictions despite having the highest infection rate for five days running.
The Government confirmed the city has been classed as “high” rather than “very high” in the new local Covid alert level system, with new measures coming into force on Wednesday.
On Monday, Nottingham’s weekly rate of new Covid-19 cases showed the rate has continued to climb.
🚨 Nottingham has been placed on HIGH Alert restrictions ‼️
— 🌈My Nottingham (@MyNottingham) October 12, 2020
A total of 2,777 new cases were recorded in the city in the seven days to October 9, the equivalent of 834.2 cases per 100,000 people.
It is a huge leap from 1,417 new cases in the previous seven days (the week to October 2), or 425.7 per 100,000 people.
Nottingham remains well ahead of the area with the second highest rate in England, Knowsley, which is now on 656.9 cases per 100,000.
Addressing the reasons why the city had not been placed in the “very high” category, the leader of Nottingham City Council, David Mellen, said: “My understanding is that there are two reasons the city hasn’t been placed into tier three.
“The first is that our hospitals aren’t currently at that level. There is a great deal of preparation going on, but they’re not full.
“The second is that the cases haven’t spread in large numbers to the older population. Most of our cases are currently among younger people.
“Obviously there’s every likelihood younger people will get Covid in a less severe way – not that that’s anything to be complacent about because there are young people who get it very badly – but obviously the greater concern is for people who are older or have underlying health conditions.”
The numbers coincide with data published on the University of Nottingham’s website, which showed 1,510 of its students had been diagnosed with active cases of Covid-19 during the week ending last Friday.
The figures included 667 students in private accommodation, 523 others living in halls of residence and 310 in purpose-built student accommodation.
A total of 20 members of staff have also tested positive for coronavirus over the same period.
Nottinghamshire Police condemned the “reckless” party behaviour of some university students just hours before the new rules came into place.
The force attended various gatherings at the weekend, including a hot tub party and a group of students celebrating negative Covid-19 test results.
In a statement issued by the university following the sharp rise in cases, a spokeswoman said: “This weekend, we encouraged students to stop mixing outside of their households and to stay on campus or in their homes, and we offered a range of activities, events, screenings and discount vouchers to support them in doing this.
“We have introduced additional staff to explain and enforce these new changes both on and off campus.
“In addition to the measures we have put into place to make our campuses Covid-secure, we are encouraging early awareness of symptoms among our university staff and students and are supporting them in promptly and closely following Government regulations.
“Clear guidance has been communicated to them on what to do if they exhibit symptoms and how to isolate, inform the university and book a test.”
The spokeswoman added: “Although the majority of our students are doing the right thing, under our student code of conduct there are serious consequences for any students who do not obey the rules, including disciplinary action, fines and campus sanctions – in addition to police fines.”
Nottinghamshire Police’s chief constable said the force would “not hesitate to fine people and take any other necessary action” if anyone ignored the new measures.
The University is closely monitoring the ongoing coronavirus situation and regularly updating information about guidelines, reporting processes and support.
— Uni of Nottingham #WeAreUoN (@UniofNottingham) October 12, 2020
Addressing the people of Nottingham after the new restrictions were announced, director of public health for Nottingham City Council, Alison Challenger, said: “I would urge everyone to play their part and follow these new restrictions.
“We have to do all we can to stop the spread of Covid-19 and better protect older and more vulnerable people – as well as helping to reduce pressure on the NHS as we move into winter.
“I know the majority of people are following the correct behaviours and playing their part in keeping our communities safe – and I thank them for this.
“Tighter restrictions will not be easy for any of us. We have been living with Covid-19 for eight months. Our lives have been restricted, we feel inconvenienced, and we all have worry and anxiety over our health and wellbeing.
“Some of us, sadly, may have lost loved ones to the virus.
“We have to keep going. We have to continue to work together by sticking to the rules and following these important rules and guidelines.”