Image Credit: Chris McAndrew
In an official statement posted to his MP Twitter account, the Conservative MP for York Outer, Julian Sturdy, has blamed the recent rise in York cases, and the subsequent tier 2 labelling, on both of York’s universities and students. The MP stated that: “York's universities are driving the spike in cases & the transmission rates in the wider community remains unclear.”
Sturdy’s statement fits in line with the current rhetoric surrounding university students across the country, with the group as a whole being blamed for the national rise in cases.
Sturdy went on to say that “from the information that I have available it seems clear that the rise in cases is being driven by York’s two universities, with the Fulford and Heslington ward alone accounting for one in five positive tests.”
He states that he would ”need to see clear evidence that this is worsening before I could endorse tightening restrictions” and that “this decision should not be taken simply based on the raw numbers, whilst running the risk that these are heavily skewed by infection rates in the universities.”
The statement was shared on Twitter by YUSU President, Patrick O’Donnell, who replied to the accusation by stating that it is “very disappointing to see this from someone who should be bringing our community together. The York PHE Director has explicitly said York's rise cannot be attributed to students. Your party needs to fund adequate testing and tracing facilities.”
O’Donnell reinforced his views on this to Nouse recently, telling us that “there have been a number of lazy characteristics of students made by some politicians and the tabloid press. Statements that pit students against local residents do nothing to further the cooperative spirit which is needed to overcome the pandemic. It is the responsibility of all of us, of all ages, to do our bit to keep ourselves and our community safe.
“As far as I’m concerned, the vast majority of students absolutely recognise their responsibility to keep themselves, their friends and the wider community in York safe and this has been demonstrated through our safe return to campus to date, with high levels of respect and understanding shown by students in our YUSUBars venues and study spaces on campus.”
Charlie Jeffery, the Vice-Chancellor of the University, has also shown his support for students, stating that “we need them. They are our doctors, our engineers, our teachers, our scientists of the future and we are going to need them to get out of the long term effects of this crisis” and ultimately disagreeing with the rhetoric that students are to blame for the current rising infection levels.