Covid-19 figures in North Yorkshire have been skewed by including positive cases among university students in other areas, it has been revealed.
Dr Lincoln Sargeant, the county’s director of public health, told a briefing that some students who test positive for coronavirus are being included in the county’s statistics – and not actually where they are studying.
He said this is because students have been using their home addresses, possibly through details given of their GP.
The pattern is likely to be replicated across the country, however it may be more marked in North Yorkshire given the high number of students who travel out of the county to study.
Dr Sargeant said: “North Yorkshire is one of those areas where the postcode issue about university students has had an impact.
“We’ve had situations where probably as much as 20 or 30 cases could be accounted for by that discretionary. It does make a difference – particularly in some of our smaller districts.
“What I don’t know for certain is exactly how many and where. We think that from the data that we see it’s becoming less of a problem, but certainly throughout the month of October it will have factored in some of our statistics.”
The issue also means outbreaks in university cities and towns could be seriously underestimated if positive cases are being registered elsewhere.
It has prompted universities across the country to urge freshers moving into new areas to register with a local GP and ensure their medical records are up to date.
North Yorkshire county councillor Stuart Parsons said the “underlying fear” of the problem is that areas could face tougher lockdown measures for cases which are actually elsewhere.
At today’s meeting of the North Yorkshire Outbreak Management Advisory Board, Dr Sargeant also revealed that the county could be moved into the “high” risk Tier 2 restrictions so that it mirrors the rest of Yorkshire.
He said having all of Yorkshire and the Humber in the same tier would make it easier for people to understand.
West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and York are all currently in Tier 2 restrictions whereas North Yorkshire, East Riding and Hull are Tier 1.
North Yorkshire’s seven-day rolling infection rate is 129.0, well below the average for England which stands at 157.