COVID-19 tests for students could start this month

In what will be welcome news to Wirral students studying away from home and their families, the government has announced programme of COVID-19 testing for students in England, which could begin on 30 November, according to a letter from the universities minister to vice-chancellors.

The aim is to stop students from spreading the virus as they return home to their families for the Christmas and New year break. A week of mass testing promises a fast turnaround for tests and “results within an hour”.

Sage scientific advisers are concerned that returning students could spread the coronavirus. There are 1.2 million students that are expected to move at Christmas from a university to a home in another part of the country.

The tests will take the form of nose and throat swab tests, which are self-administered, with no need for tests to be sent to laboratories for results.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

The BBC reports that the letter from Universities Minister Michelle Donelan, and its accompanying documents, says: “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 given free to universities and the tests will be carried out in a way that can process thousands of students within a short space of time.

Students who don’t test positive will be free to return home, but those who have positive tests will have to remain where they are and isolate.

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