University to open Covid-19 testing centre to get students home safely in time for Christmas

27 November 2020

The University of Derby is to open an asymptomatic testing centre as part of the government’s UK-wide continuing drive to increase the availability of mass testing and to ensure that students who want to go home for Christmas can do so safely.

The University is working with NHS Test & Trace to set up an on-campus testing centre so that students without symptoms, who may be infectious but unaware, are able to get tested and self-isolate if they are, or reassured quickly if they are not.

The centre is using lateral flow tests, which do not require a laboratory for processing. They are self-administered, processed by trained personnel and results can be rapidly turned around.

The centre will be open daily from November 30 to December 6, offering free testing for students. As a designated facility for the University of Derby, the testing centre is not open to members of the public.

The launch of the testing site follows recent government guidance aimed at enabling students to head home at the end of term while controlling the Covid-19 transmission risk, including a move to online learning for the final period of the autumn semester, the creation of a ‘student travel window’ (3–9 December), and the nationwide asymptomatic testing scheme for universities.

While testing is voluntary, the University, alongside the Union of Students, is encouraging students to come forward and get tested before travelling home for Christmas. The University also urges parents and other influencers to play their part in encouraging young people to get tested before aiming to return home.

Testing will help to break chain of transmission among students especially when they are infected but are not aware of it and help to ensure the safety of their loved ones at home.

All students travelling home are urged to get tested to help protect themselves and their friends, families, and communities as safe as possible this Christmas.

Professor Kathryn Mitchell, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Derby, said: “This has been an extremely challenging year for students and I very much appreciate the support I’m sure they will show for a scheme designed to give them and their families the peace of mind they need in order to travel home safely to spend Christmas with loved ones.

“We hope it will offer additional assurance that we are doing everything we can to keep our students, their families, staff and community safe. It’s important that everyone comes together one last time in 2020 to manage the risks posed by this pandemic.”

The Vice-Chancellor has also written an open letter about the student travel window and the testing programme.

Corey Beck, President of the Union of Students, said: “We have been working closely with the University to finalise the details of the new coronavirus testing programme in order to safely support student travel plans over the winter holiday period. We will be encouraging students who intend to travel to get tested, for their own wellbeing and also for their families and the wider community.”

The University is responsible for setting up the test centre, under the guidance of the NHS, which will be run by staff volunteers, including those with clinical skills. It will be open only to University of Derby students without symptoms. Anyone with symptoms should book an NHS test.

Students will be encouraged to get tested twice during the first week of December. If they receive two negative tests, they are advised to return home immediately. Should a student test positive, they will receive a confirmatory test through the NHS and have to self-isolate for 10 days, still with enough time to return home for Christmas.

Before travelling home, students are advised to plan their travel in advance, avoid busy times and routes, and check their journey to avoid disruptions. If driving, students are advised to only travel with members of their household or support bubble.

Health Minister Lord Bethell said: “We’ve already come so far since first setting up a national testing programme at an unprecedented pace to help counter Covid-19, but we continue to strive to go further, faster.

“Innovations such as lateral flow technology hold the key to the next phase of our ambition to see mass, rapid testing available to people across the country.

“I’m delighted that universities are working with us to use lateral flow technology, and I look forward to seeing the fruits of their labour, in helping students return home for Christmas and to return to a normal way of life as soon as possible.”

Baroness Dido Harding, Interim Executive Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, said: “NHS Test and Trace continues to play a leading role in the fight against Covid-19 with over 32 million tests processed so far.

“The work of the University of Derby will be essential in helping us explore the benefits of new technology.

“Derby’s asymptomatic testing centre is one of many which will lay the foundations for the next phase of NHS Test and Trace – mass testing - which will allow us to test even more people, even more quickly.”

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said: “We are committed to get students back to their loved ones for the Christmas holidays as safely as possible, after this challenging year.

“Our plans already minimise the risk of students moving at the end of term, through staggered departure dates in the ‘student travel window’. But testing will offer further assurances that students can keep their families safe this winter, and I urge all students who can to take the tests on offer.”

To find out more about how the University is responding to the pandemic, visit our Community Information page.


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