Ben HaywardNovember 10th
2020

The mass testing of students in England for Covid-19 is planned to begin on November 30th, meaning they can go home safely for Christmas.   

According to a letter from the universities minister to vice chancellors, a week of mass testing is being proposed that will overlap with the end of the current lockdown measures - between November 30th and December 6th. 

The letter, which has been seen by the BBC, promises a fast turnaround for tests with results available within the hour.

This means the first week of December could become the window for many students to leave their university accommodation and return home for the Christmas holidays while minimising the risk of Covid-19 transmission to parts of the UK with lower rates of infection. 

However, those who test positive will have to take a second test and, if found to be infectious, will be asked to stay in isolation.

Both De Montfort and Durham universities are now running pilot projects for rapid testing which includes identifying non-symptomatic carriers that could deliver results in as little as 20-30 minutes, reports the BBC.

According to a statement from Durham University, the 'lateral flow tests' aim to discover whether someone has ‘high enough levels of Covid-19 in their body to make them infectious to others’. 

The tests are self-administered using a nose and throat swab and would not need a laboratory to process the results.

The letter from Universities Minister Michelle Donelan, and its accompanying documents, say: "The tests we are deploying have a high specificity which means the risk of false positive test results is low.

"Although the test does not detect all positive cases, it works extremely well in finding cases with higher viral loads - which is those who are most infectious.

"As the test is easy to administer and does not require a laboratory, testing can take place on a very regular basis," the letter to university leaders said.

The test kits will be provided free to universities, although it will be down to the individual institutions to provide a suitable location for testing to be carried out that can process thousands of students within a short time frame.

It is thought that universities will stop in-person teaching two weeks before the end of term, meaning a ‘test and release’ process could see students who have been given the all-clear leave their term-time address and go home during the first week of December. 

Calls for students to avoid public transport are also being considered, with suggestions of chartering coaches or using private transport, to creating ‘travel corridors’ to control traffic away from universities.

TOTUM is the #1 student discount card and app giving you access to exclusive student deals on food and fashion, tech, travel and everything in between.

In store and online, TOTUM puts all the best student coupons, vouchers and discounts right where you want them - in your pocket.

Stories like this