THE number of coronavirus cases being confirmed in north Essex has dropped as university bosses are working to expand testing ahead of students returning home for Christmas.

The latest Government statistics show 127 positive Covid-19 cases were recorded in Colchester in the seven days to November 24, in addition to 85 cases in Tendring.

Compared to the number of positive results returned in the week leading to November 16, of which there were 159 and 92 cases respectively, the new figures mark a decrease.

Gathered from tests carried out in laboratories and the community, the most recent results also show how the infection rate has dropped from 81.7 to 65.2 in Colchester and 62.8 to 58 in Tendring.

The drop in the number of positive tests being returned comes at a time when the country prepares to re-emerge following the end of the second national lockdown.

It also follows an announcement from University of Essex which is now working closely with the Government to expand its asymptomatic testing to support students ahead of the winter break.

In a bid to help break the chain of transmission for those planning to travel following the end of the autumn term, bosses are encouraging students to get tested twice over the next seven days.

The university is taking the precaution in a bid to protect students and their friends, families and home communities during the Christmas period.

If they receive two negative tests, they will be advised to travel immediately, but should a student test positive they will be told to self-isolate for 10 days.

Currently they can access rapid antigen tests at nurse-led test centres at the university’s Colchester, Southend and Loughton campuses, but will take a confirmatory test at a NHS centre if they return a positive result.

The tests remain voluntary, but University of Essex registrar and secretary Bryn Morris hopes students will take the initiative in order to keep everyone safe and prevent the spread of the virus.

“Our asymptomatic testing programme has provided thousands of tests to our students and staff as part of our extensive measures to create the safest possible environment for learning and research at our campuses,” he said.

“Our testing allows us to identify any cases at the earliest possible moment and respond quickly to contain any spread of infection.

“With Government support we are now increasing our testing capacity to assist students who want to travel as safely as possible during the winter break.

“Although the tests are voluntary we expect that our students will fully support them to help protect their friends, their families and the wider community.”

Since October the University-run test centres have already administered close to 10,000 tests to staff and students, including the initial antibody tests and now the antigen test.

Currently, 11 students affiliated with the Colchester campus are self-isolating as of Sunday having returned a positive test for coronavirus.

This is nearly four times the three Southend students who are in quarantine.