Buildings and Collegs across Cambridge were lit in blue in support of frontline workers on Thursday evenings throughout April and MaySt. Catharine's College

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Read our coronavirus live blog for July here.

Thursday 25th June 9:35am 

Professor James Wood, the head of the Department of Veterinary Medicine at Cambridge and a researcher in infection dynamics and control of diseases, has suggested several potential reasons for why food processing plants in the UK, USA, Germany and France have seen recent outbreaks of coronavirus.

Arguing that the working conditions in these food plants need to be scrutinised, Professor Wood suggested that the outbreaks may have been prompted by the “challenges of avoiding close working between individuals” on production lines and the “substantial air movement that exists in and across many slaughterhouses and meat plants.”

Wood described the theory (suggested by some meat-processing firms themselves) that cold temperatures in food-processing plants are the primary reason for coronavirus outbreaks as an “interesting hypothesis.”  Professor Wood added that large outbreaks of Covid-19 in food processing plants, indicating “continued transmission,” might suggest that “people are coming to work when unwell”.

Monday 22nd June 2:33pm 

Government data indicates that Cambridge has had no positive Covid-19 tests since 7th June.

Although samples taken in the last five days cannot be included in this information, this news comes after last week's announcement that the R rate in the East of England is between 0.7-0.9.

Wednesday 17th June 11:07am 

In an email sent to all students and staff yesterday afternoon, Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope confirmed that Cambridge will be open to students next academic year and that the academic year  will start as normal and term dates will not be changed.

Teaching will take place both in-person and online depending on the situation and both students and staff will adapt to new ways of interacting.

In most cases, colleges will provide accommodation as usual to all students next term.

Thursday 11th June 3:12pm 

Researchers have confirmed that homemade facemasks, despite their limited effectiveness, can help reducing the spread of coronavirus to some extent, as well as preventing a second wave.

A study by Cambridge researchers has shown that if people wear masks in public it is twice as effective at reducing the ‘R’ number than if masks are worn only after symptoms appear.

“If widespread facemasks used by the public is combined with physical distancing and some lockdown, it may offer an acceptable way of managing the pandemic and reopening economic activity long before there is a working vaccine,” said Dr Richard Stutt, member of the Cambridge Department of Plant Sciences.

Another member, Dr Renata Retkute, added that the government should issue instructors as to how to make and wear masks as it can have a significant impact in reducing transmission.

Researchers have, however, also considered the negative impacts of reusable, homemade masks such as the increase in face touching.

Tuesday 9th June 3:35pm 

The recent announcement from the World Health Organisation states that asymptomatic transmissions of the coronavirus are "very rare," and various contact-tracing studies from around the world indicate that this is the case.

However, according to Professor Babak Javid, an infectious diseases consultant at Cambridge University, transmission of the infection can take place before or as and when the symptoms first become apparent.

People can carry the virus three days before developing symptoms and be able to transmit it during this time.

Those who are asymptomatic are unlikely to realise that they may be contagious. This has "important implications" for track, trace and isolation measures, added Professor Javid.

Saturday 6th June 2:10pm 

A team of scientists at the University of Cambridge, which is one of the leading groups working on predictions of the national and regional ‘R’ rates for Covid-19, have released an update to its report which indicates that the ‘R’ rate has risen across many regions of the UK. 

The MRC Biostatistics Unit at the Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine has been working with Public Health England (PHE) modelling teams to create a real-time modelling system for the Covid-19 epidemic in the UK. This group, along with several others from leading British universities, provides real-time information to the SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) group of scientists which in turn advises the government. 

The report provided by this group involves a “reconstruction” of all previous Covid-19 deaths and infections in the UK, as well as an estimate of the current ‘R’ rate and a forecast of the numbers of deaths and infections in the weeks to come. 

The latest report estimates that the ‘R’ rate is around 1 in the North West and South West, and slightly below 1 in all other regions, and that it has risen across all regions due to “increasing mobility and mixing between households and in public and workplace settings.” Dr Paul Birrell, a leading researcher contributing to the Cambridge-PHE model, has claimed that “all regions are straddling one.” If ‘R’ is above 1, then the epidemic will grow exponentially; if ‘R’ is below 1 then it will decline. 

The government has insisted that the ‘R’ rate “is not above one anywhere in the country,” and the official position of SAGE is in agreement. The results of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s model show lower regional ‘R’ rates than those found by the Cambridge-PHE model; they report, for instance, that the North West has an ‘R’ number of 0.8.

The Cambridge-PHE group further predicts that the regional increases in the ‘R’ rate will slow the decrease in new infections and deaths and that the decline in the national death rate will be “arrested” by mid-June. They estimate that the daily death rate will “fall to between 100-250 by mid-June”.

Friday 5th June 7:27pm 

Professor Chris Jiggins argues that lessons learnt during the coronavirus pandemic 'must be applied to the climate crisis'.

Jiggins, who is an evolutionary biologist and a Fellow at St John's College, argues that the pandemic has shown that societies are able to make dramatic changes very quickly. He proposes that these lessons should be applied to the climate crisis.

He explained: "Fundamental change is needed and we should not lose sight of that during the coronavirus pandemic and its aftermath – the world was poorly prepared for the pandemic and it is poorly prepared for the climate crisis which could be even more devastating on a much bigger scale. Now really is the time to be ‘guided by science’ and St John’s recognises the urgency of this challenge and will steer all College activities towards a zero-carbon future".

Thursday 4th June 9:48am 

Students in Cambridge and other British universities might be put in small-group “protective bubbles” next term to aid social distancing on campuses.

As reported by the BBC, university leaders are considering asking students to “live and study with the same group to minimise mixing”.

This “protective bubble” strategy, which is currently used in English primary schools, would involve students “sharing accommodation with people taking the same course” to minimise contact with other students and so limit the spread of coronavirus. It is unclear how this would be applied to a collegiate environment such as Cambridge.

This is in line with the list of principles and considerations which were published by Universities UK concerning strategies for exiting lockdown in the university sector. These principles, described as offering “a framework for individual universities to adapt to their own institutional settings and contexts,” include ideas such as initiatives to encourage cycling in place of public transport, increased hygiene provision in university buildings and a ‘blended’ combination of online and face-to-face teaching. 

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, Sir Anthony Seldon, has described the coronavirus pandemic as “the biggest crisis ever in the history of universities,” but hailed the concept of “protective bubbles” as “an example of the kind of imaginative thinking that we need to see.”

The National Union of Students has called for “clarity” concerning the next academic year so that students can make “informed choices” regarding their offers. A survey of prospective incoming freshers conducted by Youthsight found that 71% of students support delaying the start of their first term if it meant more face-to-face teaching. Universities UK president Professor Julia Buckingham has proposed an “optional new January start” for some courses at Brunel University London, where she is Vice-Chancellor. She has suggested that “any international students who may not be able to travel in September” may also be allowed to begin in January. 

CUSU has already announced a virtual Freshers’ Fair in October instead of a face-to-face event, but has set out provisional plans for an in-person “Refreshers’ Fair” in January. 

Wednesday 3rd June 8:10pm

A recent study by Cambridge academics revealed that deaths among young men aged 20-24 have decreased substantially since lockdown restrictions were introduced. 

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at the Cambridge Maths Faculty, told The Telegraph that there has been a 30% reduction in the mortality rate for men aged 20-24 and that they are “significantly less likely to die” during the lockdown period.

Professor Spiegelhalter added that while mortality rates generally increase with age, “we normally expect a blip or hump for young men” due to “risk-taking behaviour”, including road accidents and incidents relating to alcohol or drugs. 

He concluded that “more detailed pools of data” would explain further this fall in mortality, but suggested that the reduction in road use and the closure of pubs, clubs and bars may well be significant factors for why this particular age group has “benefited during this period”.

Tuesday 2nd June 11:53am 

Dr Stephen Baker, a Professor of molecular microbiology at the Cambridge Institute for Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease, who led a team of Cambridge University scientists in developing a new test for coronavirus, has told the Guardian that it is “completely possible” that Covid-19 arrived in the UK earlier than the first confirmed case on January 31st.

Baker acknowledged that although “it is easy to retrofit stories to things”, especially given the “heightened awareness” among the public to coronavirus, he stated that it was difficult to determine when exactly the disease first reached the UK.

He added that if the pandemic was spreading “fairly substantially” in Wuhan with the general population unaware, travel between the UK and China could have caused infections within the UK and potential community transmission earlier than the first confirmed case.

He theorised that many of the early cases would not have been in contact with enough people to “form significant outbreaks” and so remained unnoticed.

Baker went on to suggest that the “expansion” of the pandemic in the UK occurred “around February half term”, and that people returning from “skiing holidays in northern Italy” caused “a number of introductions [of Covid-19] in one go”, which led to sustained “onward transmission”.

Monday 1st June 1:32pm 

Like primary schools across England, Cambridge’s primary schools have reopened today for Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils as the government begins to ease lockdown restrictions.

Returning to their classrooms for the first time in over two months, children will be taught in 'bubbles' of 8-12 pupils per group, in order to observe social distancing guidelines. Secondary school pupils are expected to return on June 15 with Year 10 and Year 12 pupils being offered revision classes in preparation for their exams.

Schools have remained open throughout the lockdown for the children of key workers. However, a report by the Independent Sage group – an independent group of scientists chaired by the former chief scientific adviser, and Cambridge professor, Sir David King -  suggests that plans for whole classes to return could potentially increase the R-value of infections causing a new surge in Covid-19 cases.

Last weekend, parents from the ‘Cambs parents & carers Covid19 forum’ protested the decision to re-open primary schools outside the Cambridgeshire County Council building.

In normal circumstances, parents can be fined for refusing to send their child to school under section 7 of the Education Act 1996. However, the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has confirmed that there will be no penalty for families who decide not to send their children back to school at the current time. 

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