Health

Mass testing is to be rolled out at universities to get students home safely for Christmas

Mass Covid testing will be rolled out to university students so they can go home for Christmas, it was claimed today.

Under the plans, large-scale asymptomatic testing centres are expected to be set up on campuses to screen all students.  

No10 is expected to confirm the plans tomorrow, which will reportedly see Covid-19 swabs offered between November 30 and December 6. 

It is hoped that a testing blitz will help deliver Boris Johnson’s pledge to ‘get students home safely for Christmas’. There are around 2.4million students in the UK.

It was previously suggested students may have to self-isolate for two weeks before heading home — but this is understood to have been rejected by vice-chancellors, who branded the plans ‘non-sensical’.  

Students are to be offered swabs before returning home for Christmas, it has been suggested. Pictured above are students at St Andrews University in Scotland

BORIS JOHNSON ANNOUNCES 600,000 RAPID TESTS ARE BEING SENT OUT IN MASS-SWABBING SCHEME

Boris Johnson last night announced that 600,000 fast Covid tests are to be sent out across the UK, as plans moved closer for a mass testing program in another major city.

The Prime Minister said the rapid lateral flow tests will be sent out to local public health leaders in the coming days in a bid to help areas detect asymptomatic cases.

The antigen tests can tell if a person is currently infected with coronavirus and the lateral flow technology can produce results within an hour.

It comes as plans were reportedly being drawn up last night to make Nottingham the next city to undergo a major program of mass testing.

The Midlands city would become the second area to undergo mass testing, after Liverpool.

On top of that, asymptomatic NHS staff in England will receive Covid-19 tests twice a week, the health service confirmed last night. 

In a Downing Street press briefing last night, the Prime Minister said the Government would shortly issue guidance on how universities should manage the mass exodus of students when the Autumn term ends.

The ‘pre-end-of-term testing’ will be offered by NHS Test and Trace, reports the Daily Telegraph.

They newspapers adds that university leaders were told the key objective was to test students so they could make ‘informed decisions regarding their return home for Christmas’.

This would, therefore, minimise the risk of ‘spreading the virus to vulnerable people at their destination’.

It is not clear what type of tests will be offered to students, but it is thought it will be a mixture of rapid LAMP tests, which give results in an hour, and PCR swabs already widely used across the country. It is also unclear as to whether every university will be offered the tests.

The plans offer a glimmer of hope to students, compared to the nightmare scenario of them being asked to self-isolate for two weeks before heading home.

Ministers are in a race against time to put forward plans to get students home for Christmas, with some universities breaking for the festive period as early as December 7.

There are concerns the mass exodus could lead to the virus being spread further across the country, as students move between cities and UK nations to return home. 

With the expectation of an annoucement tomorrow, Larissa Kennedy, the president of the National Union of Students, said: ‘The government have finally listened to our calls to ensure that students can travel home safely for Christmas. 

‘We had raised concerns about plans to make students self-isolate for extended periods of time, and the effect this would have on their mental health, so giving students some much needed clarity will hopefully put many at ease.

‘We particularly welcome this mass-testing approach as it equips students with the knowledge to make informed decisions about travel ahead of the winter break based on individual risk, instead of being subject to blanket rules we’ve seen elsewhere this term. 

‘The government must now ensure that universities have enough resource to cope with the mass demand for this testing. We do now need a clear strategy for January return: students deserve better than another term of uncertainty.’ 

Ministers are concerned that the mass exodus of students from universities before Christmas could spread the virus to other parts of the country. Pictured is the Radcliffe Camera, at Oxford University

Ministers are concerned that the mass exodus of students from universities before Christmas could spread the virus to other parts of the country. Pictured is the Radcliffe Camera, at Oxford University

It comes after hundreds of students have faced disrupted terms with curtailed activities and orders to self-isolate due to Covid-19 outbreaks inside their accommodation.

Last week students at the University of Manchester pulled down fences erected around their halls of residence as part of measures aimed at halting the spread of coronavirus.

The students living on Fallowfield campus said the fences were put up on Thursday morning without warning from the university, and they were only able to leave their halls through a single guarded exit.

As well as installing the fences, university authorities also disabled swipe cards allowing access to the halls.

In a statement issued last week the university apologised for its actions, and said the fences would be removed.

‘I sincerely apologise for the concern and distress caused by the erecting of a fence around our Fallowfield halls of residence today,’ the vice-chancellor Professor Nancy Rothwell said.

‘This was not our intention – in fact quite the reverse.’

The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.

It comes after Boris Johnson last night announced that 600,000 fast Covid tests are to be sent out across the UK, as plans moved closer for a mass testing program in another major city.

The Prime Minister said the rapid lateral flow tests will be sent out to local public health leaders in the coming days in a bid to help areas detect asymptomatic cases.

The antigen tests can tell if a person is currently infected with coronavirus and the lateral flow technology can produce results within an hour.

It comes as plans were reportedly being drawn up last night to make Nottingham the next city to undergo a major program of mass testing.

The Midlands city would become the second area to undergo mass testing, after Liverpool.

On top of that, asymptomatic NHS staff in England will receive Covid-19 tests twice a week, the health service confirmed last night. 


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