Newcastle University

Students arrive for start of university term

Thousands of new university students have moved into halls of residence across the region despite calls to teach from home amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The government has defended students' arrivals, but Labour says it should consider pausing their return as many parts of the country are seeing a sharp rise in infection rates.

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said the start of term should be delayed while an "effective, efficient testing system" is put in place.

The Department for Education said it was working closely with universities.

Earlier this month, public health chiefs in Newcastle said the arrival of 50,000 students in the city would be a serious problem. Universities in the North East said they have measures in place to limit the spread of the virus.

Jenrick: 'Students should still go back'

Students planning to go to university in the affected North East regions should still attend, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has said.

Speaking to ITV's Peston programme, Mr Jenrick said new lockdown measures will be "specific" and "tailored" to the "particular issues" in the North East with a full briefing to be made available to everyone during the day.

Jenrick on show
ITV

Asked if the government was happy for universities such as those in Newcastle to reopen, Mr Jenrick said: "We have to.

"We have prioritised education in general, we want to encourage students to go back. Universities have put a huge amount of effort into making sure their universities are safe, putting in place correct procedures, bubbles, remote learning and so on.

"It is important education returns to a degree of normality."

Concern as students arrive for university

There's a warning the arrival of 50,000 students amid rising numbers of Covid-19 cases will be a "serious problem" for Newcastle.

The city's director of public health Eugene Milne is urging students in the city to act responsibly to protect themselves and others.

Newcastle and Northumbria universities are due to begin terms in the next few weeks and both say they have detailed plans for a safe return.

Sunderland and Teesside universities are also welcoming back students this week, with Freshers' Week events moving online.

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Scientists use AI technology for disease diagnosis

BBC Newcastle

Scientists in the North East are using Artificial Intelligence techonology to help diagnose Parkinson's and Alzehimers.

Newcastle University is working with the RVI and Sunderland eye infirmary using NHS scans which capture detailed images of the retina.

They are developing technology to detect early signs of neurological diseases.

Seaweed enzyme used for eco laundry detergents

An enzyme made by bacteria living on seaweed is being used to make environmentally-friendly laundry detergents in "a wonderful example of borrowing a cleaning idea from Mother Nature".

Scientists studied how bacteria release themselves from seaweed by using the novel phosphodiesterase enzyme, which breaks down the sticky molecules naturally present on its surface.

Newcastle University experts have developed its potential for use as a new type of natural cleaner which could be used to wash clothes.

They found that the enzyme could work at higher temperatures, but was at its best in lower ones, as in the sea.

The team, led by Professor Grant Burgess in collaboration with Dr Michael Hall, worked with Procter & Gamble (P&G) to show it could work in modern laundry detergents which are designed for lower temperature washes, that are more environmentally friendly.

The enzyme was discovered by the Newcastle team 10 years ago, when they were researching how to clean ships' hulls.

Prof Burgess said: "This is a wonderful example of borrowing a cleaning idea from Mother Nature.

"By studying how a seaweed keeps itself clean, we can now keep our own socks clean and fresh, while at the same time protecting our environment."

Dr Michael Hall, left, and Prof Grant Burgess
PA Media