Mass coronavirus testing of students before Christmas holidays to begin

A mass coronavirus testing centre has been set up at the University of St Andrews to allow students to be checked before returning home for Christmas.

It is part of a rollout of asymptomatic Covid-19 testing to students throughout Scotland before the festive break.

They are invited to take the free self-administered tests, which involve swabbing the back of the throat and inside the nose, overseen by the university’s third-year medical students.

Results of the lateral flow tests are known within 30 minutes and students will receive an email or text within 24 hours telling them whether they have tested positive or negative for Covid-19.

Coronavirus – Fri Nov 27, 2020
Approximately 1,500 tests can be carried out each day (Jane Barlow/PA)

If these come back positive, students will be asked by NHS Test and Protect to take a further type of test at the centre to confirm the result and should then self-isolate.

One million of the lateral flow device kits have been provided to the Scottish Government by the UK Government before being allocated to universities.

The facility in St Andrews will open on Saturday and has capacity for approximately 1,500 students to be tested each day.

It will remain open until December 18.

Alastair Merrill, the vice-principal for governance at the University of St Andrews, said all students who are considering travelling are being asked to take two tests, three to five days apart.

He added students and staff have been “working around the clock to make this happen”.

Coronavirus – Fri Nov 27, 2020
Medical students at work in the Covid-19 mass testing centre (Jane Barlow/PA)

Mr Merrill said Public Health Scotland has described the university’s response to managing the risks of Covid-19 as “exemplary”, with no evidence to date of any transmission among students in classrooms.

He explained no student residences have had to be shut down and no members of the university have become seriously ill due to coronavirus.

A survey by the St Andrews Students’ Association found approximately 80% are planning to go home over Christmas.

Emma Walsh, the student union’s elected wellbeing officer, told the PA news agency students have shown “resilience” but lots have struggled with isolation, loneliness and their mental health.

Coronavirus – Fri Nov 27, 2020
Students getting their Covid-19 tests (Jane Barlow/PA)

Ms Walsh, who will be returning home to the west coast of America for Christmas, said: “I live on a small island in between Seattle and Vancouver so it’s a very small community and I would not want to be someone bringing back coronavirus to that community.

“So I think that it’s really great, especially for people from far away, small areas that may not be as Covid-heavy as parts of Scotland are.”

She added: “It’s been a strange time being an international student so many miles away from home and not knowing if I could go back or not.

“I don’t know if I would be going back or not if I didn’t have the testing centre access here so it’s a great, great thing to have.”

Coronavirus – Fri Nov 27, 2020
Sophie Tyler taking a coronavirus test at the centre (Jane Barlow/PA)

Sophie Tyler, the Athletic Union President, said she is excited to be able to visit her family in York with less risk of spreading the virus.

She said: “I’ve got young kids in my family, my parents are getting older and I think it’s just knowing that I can go home and rejoin that household and live with them and know that I’m not going to pass it on to them and risk their health.

“But also the amount of students that are going to be moving across the country, knowing that this testing thing will help to make sure that the spread of the virus doesn’t increase across the country.

“That has been the great thing about this testing centre.”

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