A college has been forced to close its campus following an outbreak of Covid-19, involving the so-called “Indian variant”, and has moved its provision online for the next ten days.

Runshaw College told staff and students yesterday to stay home until 17 May following talks with Public Health England.

The Lancashire Post news website is reporting there are at least 30 cases of the virus at the college’s Leyland site, one of two campuses, with another in Chorley. Two of the 30 cases are reportedly the Indian variant.

Principal Clare Russell said: “A number of Covid-19 cases were recently reported among the college community and these were swiftly and safely dealt with in accordance with our Covid-secure Risk Assessment.

“However, genetic testing by Public Health England has identified that some of those affected have the COVID-19 variant first identified in India (VOC-21APR-02), and as a precaution PHE are doing further testing to track the cases and limit the spread of the outbreak.

“We have therefore taken the decision to temporarily close the college campus and move to online learning and working from Friday 7 May.  We intend to resume to face-to-face teaching on campus from Monday 17 May, although this will remain under review.

“There is currently no evidence to suggest that the identified variant causes more serious illness than other variants.  Nonetheless, tracking and controlling the spread of this variant is very important from a public heath point of view.

“Following advice from Public Health England and Lancashire Public Health, all students, staff and their households are being asked to take a free PCR test as soon as possible. PCR tests can be booked or ordered online via the NHS. This will help us instruct people who need to isolate to do so and help cut the chains of transmission.

“In order to ensure the health and safety of all members of our college community, both campuses will be fully closed until 17th May, and during this closure deep cleaning will be carried out. 

“The decision to temporarily close the college campus has not been taken lightly but the health and wellbeing of all members of our college community remains our absolute priority.  The current situation is a clear reminder to everybody that we must all continue to follow COVID-safe control measures at all times, in and outside of college.” 

The college’s provision includes study programmes, A-levels and apprenticeships.