University students have unique living, learning and social arrangements which may have implications for infectious disease transmission. To address this data gap, we created CONQUEST (COroNavirus QUESTionnaire), a longitudinal online survey of contacts, behaviour, and COVID-19 symptoms for University of Bristol (UoB) staff/students. Here, we analyse results from 740 students providing 1261 unique records from the start of the 2020/2021 academic year (14/09/2020–01/11/2020), where COVID-19 outbreaks led to the self-isolation of all students in some halls of residences. Although most students reported lower daily contacts than in pre-COVID-19 studies, there was heterogeneity, with some reporting many (median = 2, mean = 6.1, standard deviation = 15.0; 8% had ≥ 20 contacts). Around 40% of students’ contacts were with individuals external to the university, indicating potential for transmission to non-students/staff. Only 61% of those reporting cardinal symptoms in the past week self-isolated, although 99% with a positive COVID-19 test during the 2 weeks before survey completion had self-isolated within the last week. Some students who self-isolated had many contacts (mean = 4.3, standard deviation = 10.6). Our results provide context to the COVID-19 outbreaks seen in universities and are available for modelling future outbreaks and informing policy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number11728
Number of pages13
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for funding this research, our RedCap data manager Alison Horne and our PPI group for their feedback during the development of the survey. We would also like to thank all the participants who have taken part in this study.

Funding Information:
This study was funded and supported by the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute. HC, AF, KT, and EBP would like to acknowledge support from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in Behavioural Science and Evaluation at the University of Bristol. HC is additionally funded through an NIHR Career Development Fellowship [CDF-2018-11-ST2-015]. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care. CR is a member of the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit and receives support from the MRC (MC_UU_00011/5) and the University of Bristol. ATh is supported by Wellcome (217509/Z/19/Z). EBP, EN and LD are supported by UKRI through the JUNIPER consortium (Grant Number MR/V038613/1). LD and EBP are further supported by MRC (Grant Number MC/PC/19067). LD acknowledges funding from EPSRC (EP/V051555/1 and The Alan Turing Institute, Grant EP/N510129/1).

Funding Information:
JGW has received research funding from Gilead Sciences unrelated to this research. All other authors declare no competing interests.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).

Structured keywords

  • Covid19


  • human behaviour
  • infectious diseases
  • viral infection


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