December 2020

Asymptomatic testing centre opens on campus to help get students home for Christmas 

By Melanie Hall

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A Covid-19 asymptomatic testing site of lateral flow tests has opened at University College Birmingham to help students return home safely for Christmas. ​ 

University College Birmingham has worked with NHS Test and Trace to set up an on-campus ATS so that students without symptoms, who may be infectious but unaware, are able to get tested and asked to self-isolate if they are, or reassured quickly if they are not. 

From Monday 30 November until Wednesday 9 December, testing will be available for students in higher education at the University on the lower ground floor of The Link support services building in Summer Row. Testing will also be available to staff.

"We want to see our students return to a sense of normality and continuing with their higher education in the very best way possible."

Alice Wilby Pro Vice-Chancellor for Access, Participation and Student Experience

Students are being 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 PCR and have to self-isolate for 10 days, still with enough time to return home for Christmas. 

Testing will help to break the 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.

Alice Wilby, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Access, Participation and Student Experience at University College Birmingham, said: “Our priority is ensuring students can get home safely for Christmas and by setting up our lateral flow testing site, we can keep people as safe as possible and avoid anyone needing to self-isolate over the festive period.

"We will be offering the test to all our over 18s, but our priority order is students living in our halls of residence, other HE students, staff and over-18 FE students.  

“Ultimately, we want to see our students return to a sense of normality and continuing with their higher education in the very best way possible.”

From the start of the pandemic, the Government has been working around the clock with a range of partners to fight coronavirus. The testing centre at University College Birmingham is being delivered in partnership with Public Health Birmingham and will offer self-swab tests. ​ 

Lateral flow devices do not require a laboratory to process the test. Processing of these tests can be conducted at a dedicated testing site by trained personnel and can rapidly turn around results within an hour.

Use of lateral flow tests could significantly improve the detection of positive cases, so people can isolate themselves and prevent the spread of the disease. Asymptomatic testing will help to protect those at high risk, find the virus and help enable us to go back to as normal a way of life as possible. ​ 

Anyone testing positive for the virus in England will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace to help them track their contacts. This will help people to identify who they may have been in close contact with, protecting others from further transmission. Close contacts of those testing positive will also hear from NHS Test and Trace, asking them to stay at home for 14 days to prevent them from unknowingly spreading the virus.  

​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. ​ 

​“This ATS 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.” 

For more on asymptomatic testing at University College Birmingham, visit our FAQs page.

Anyone with symptoms should follow the guidance online on how to book a PCR test or call 119. Lines are open 7am to 11pm. 

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