THE number of students with coronavirus at a college and university near Ledbury has risen to 50.

Hartpury College and Hartpury University said 50 of its students currently have Covid-19, up from 33 at the same time last week.

Public health bosses say they believe the virus has spread while students are socialising, rather than while in lectures at the campus between Gloucester and Ledbury.

The majority of students with the virus are studying at the university, rather than the college, but around 40 per cent live off-campus.

"We currently have 50 live cases in students studying at Hartpury University and Hartpury College, some of whom live on site in Hartpury accommodation and others who live off site," a spokesperson said.

"All are being supported by our dedicated support teams as they self-isolate with their households.

"Whilst the number of cases remains relatively low in the context of our student/staff community of nearly 4,800 individuals, we are continuing to work very closely with Public Health England and the Gloucestershire County Council Covid-19 Hub to ensure we are taking all necessary steps to prevent the spread of infection.  

"The safety and well-being of our staff and students remains our top priority. We put in place a series of robust measures before welcoming our students back for the new term including: mask zones, hand sanitisation stations, and adherence to the 'rule of 6' when socialising.

"We have also introduced a combination of online and face-to-face lessons for smaller groups and increased the number of places to eat and study spaces on campus, to allow students to social distance."

In an email to students on Tuesday, Russell Marchant, vice-chancellor and principal, said the 50 live cases include one college student and 49 university students and an approximate 60:40 split of residential and non-residential students.

"There is currently only one confirmed case involving a member of staff," he added.

"All affected students have already been contacted, including any potential contacts at Hartpury. We will continue to be in direct communication with these students to support them, including those who are in self-isolation.

"PHE believe the pattern of infection suggests that our educational environment is not a source of transmission.

"The trends we have monitored support this and suggest the majority of positive student cases have been contracted by students aged over-18 outside of the educational setting, for example when socialising."

Hartpury University and Hartpury College provides courses in agriculture, animal, equine, sport and veterinary nursing.

Located in Gloucestershire, the 360-hectare campus has more than 4,000 university and college-level students.