A postgraduate student at Lincoln College has become the first confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) at the University of Oxford. They had recently returned from travel overseas.

An email from the rector, Henry Woudhuysen, was sent to all Lincoln staff, students, and fellows on Sunday morning:

We learned on Saturday afternoon that one of our students has tested positive for coronavirus. Since then, we have been talking to the University, the Conference of Colleges and Public Health England (PHE) about how we should proceed.

“As soon as the student began to feel unwell, the student went into self-isolation and has remained there; those who have been in close contact with the student have been individually notified.

“The advice of PHE is that the risk of other students and staff is very low, and that University and College life can continue as normal. PHE have explicitly stated that there are no public health actions that the University of colleges need to undertake. We shall be carrying on with life in College as normal.

This follows an email last night from the vice-chancellor Louise Richardson, informing all Oxford students of the diagnosed case. She said:

We have anticipated this eventuality and have been preparing for it for some weeks now. Moreover, given the rate of infection across the country, there will in all likelihood be other cases. I know this news will be upsetting to some of you. Support will be available through Student Welfare and through Colleges and Departments.”

This brings the total number of COVID-19 cases in Oxfordshire to 5 today, and 273 nationwide, up from 209 on Saturday.

The University has asked all students and staff to support their fellow friends and colleagues in this difficult time, as harassment and discrimination of any kind are totally unacceptable.

All students who may have planned to fly abroad to go home after the end of Hilary term will be given the opportunity to stay in Oxford. Colleges have been asked to make accommodation available for international and EU students who cannot return home over the vacation and to consider sympathetically any requests for vacation residence grants.

Students who live in Mainland China, Iran, or parts of South Korea and Italy are advised not to return for the vacation. Many colleges, such as St John’s and Trinity, were quick to offer students who would be flying home to China free accommodation. Jesus College has said it will consider offering free accommodation on a hardship basis.

If you are worried you may have contracted coronavirus, use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service. This will ask you a series of questions to ascertain if you are at risk. If after following NHS advice you are told to self-isolate, the University recommends you contact your college in the first instance. The advice page says: “let them know if you require additional support to self-isolate. The NHS will provide you and the people you live with details on how to self-isolate.”

Globally, there have been around 107,000 cases. Of these, almost 61,000 have already recovered and at least 3,666 have died. In the UK, there have been 273 cases, with 18 recoveries and two deaths.

Phoebe Hennell

Phoebe Hennell is co-founder of The Oxford Blue, and former Managing Director. She is reading Philosophy and Modern Greek at Christ Church, and is on her year abroad in Athens.