St Andrews University is planning to open a rapid testing centre by the end of November in the University Sports Centre in order to roll out end of term Covid tests for all students before they head home for Christmas.
The free asymptomatic tests will be available for all students planning to leave St Andrews over the inter-semester break and those remaining in the town. The tests are voluntary, but students have been strongly advised to take them as young people in particular are likely to have no symptoms but are still able to carry the virus back to family or friends over the holidays.
Students will be offered a lateral-flow test which involves taking a swab from the mouth and nose in a process that takes just a few minutes. Students will be notified of the test result by email or text within 24 hours by NHS Test and Protect, and possibly much faster.
The Scottish Government is recommending that two tests are taken, at least three days apart and ideally not more than five days apart, to have the greatest level of confidence that students are not infectious with Covid before they leave St Andrews.
If students test positive, they will be asked by NHS Test and Protect to take a further type of test at the Covid Testing Centre in St Andrews to confirm the result and should self-isolate. If the test is negative, the University is encouraging students to travel as soon as possible, ideally within 24 hours, after receiving the negative test result to minimise the risk of picking up Covid before they depart.
St Andrews has maintained one of the best records in the UK for keeping Covid levels low within a student community of more than 9000. Its Covid Rapid Response Team has offered critical support to students to get tested and self-isolate quickly, while liaising closely with colleagues in Public Health Scotland.
Public Health Scotland has described the University’s response to managing the risks of Covid as “exemplary”.
To date there has been no evidence of any transmission among students in the classroom or from students to the wider community, no student residences have had to be shut down, and no members of the University community have become seriously ill.
A University spokesperson said: “Our priority this term has been to keep our community safe and, in doing so, ensure that the wider community of St Andrews is as safe as possible. This has been a very challenging semester for everyone at St Andrews, but the response of the vast majority of our students to the risks of Covid transmission and the necessary restrictions placed on them has been hugely positive and responsible.”
“As the end of term approaches, we hope this new testing regime will allow students to travel home for Christmas with the reassurance that they are not taking Covid with them.”
A recent survey by the St Andrews Students’ Association revealed that approximately 80% of St Andrews students were planning to go home over Christmas. The University is preparing however to look after up to 1000 students who have either chosen to stay, or will be unable to get home during the break.