Effect of Returning University Students on COVID-19 Infections in England, 2020

David Leeman*, Joe Flannagan, Dimple Chudasama, Kyle Dack, Charlotte Anderson, Gavin Dabrera, Theresa Lamagni

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
46 Downloads (Pure)


Each September in England, ≈1 million students relocate to study at universities. To determine COVID-19 cases and outbreaks among university students after their return to university during the COVID pandemic in September 2020, we identified students with COVID-19 (student case-patients) by reviewing contact tracing records identifying attendance at university and residence in student accommodations identified by matching case-patients' residential addresses with national property databases. We determined COVID-19 rates in towns/cities with and without a university campus. We identified 53,430 student case-patients during September 1-December 31, 2020, which accounted for 2.7% of all cases during this period. Student case-patients increased rapidly after the start of the term, driven initially by cases and outbreaks in student accommodations. Case rates among students 18-23 years of age doubled at the start of term in towns with universities. Our findings highlight the need for face-to-face and control measures to reduce virus transmission.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1366-1374
Number of pages9
JournalEmerging Infectious Diseases
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). All rights reserved.


  • COVID-19/epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Pandemics/prevention & control
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Students
  • Universities


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