Mass student testing centre opens at St Andrews University

Student Fiona Waddell demonstrates the test.Student Fiona Waddell demonstrates the test.
Student Fiona Waddell demonstrates the test.
A mass student testing centre is to open 48 hours ahead of schedule at St Andrews University.

From Saturday November 28 all students will have access to free tests, regardless of whether they have any Covid-19 symptoms.

The purpose-built testing centre has been set up in the University Sports Centre and will be open from Saturday until Friday December 18.

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Similar centres are due to open from Monday at universities around the country.

Student Sophie Tyler demonstrates the Covid-19 test.Student Sophie Tyler demonstrates the Covid-19 test.
Student Sophie Tyler demonstrates the Covid-19 test.

The centre at Edinburgh university will be open from Monday until Wednesday December 9.

Students will be asked to take two tests, between three and five days apart, before travelling home for Christmas in order to minimise the risk of bringing the virus home to friends and family in a different part of the country.

The lateral flow tests will be administered by the university’s third year medical students, and students will be told of the result by email or text within 24 hours or sooner by NHS Test and Protect.

If the second result is negative, individuals should travel as soon as possible to reduce the risk of picking up the virus before going home.

Students Anna-Ruth Cochrane, Emma Walsh, Fiona Waddell, Lily Wallace take a test.Students Anna-Ruth Cochrane, Emma Walsh, Fiona Waddell, Lily Wallace take a test.
Students Anna-Ruth Cochrane, Emma Walsh, Fiona Waddell, Lily Wallace take a test.

If it is positive they will be given another type of test, the “gold-standard” PCR test, to confirm the result, and will be told to self-isolate. It is hoped that due to the early timing of the tests students who have to self-isolate will still have enough time to travel home for Christmas afterwards.

A survey by the St Andrews Students’ Association showed that around 80 per cent of the university’s 9,000 students planned to go home for Christmas.

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The university said it is preparing to look after up to 1,000 students who choose to stay over the break, or who are unable to get home.

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A spokesperson for the university 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.”

Jeane Freeman welcomed the rollout of mass student testing at the Covid-19 briefing on Friday.

"Students who are travelling home, and we expect between 60,000 and 80,000 of those, are encouraged to take two tests before they leave, and that testing, with a lot of support and hard work from our universities and others, has started today,” she said.

She added: “I would encourage all students who are intending to travel back home over the festive period to take up that opportunity because that allows you to know that as you set out home then you are negative at that point for Covid-19 and that will matter to you because you will want to protect your family, particularly if you have elderly relatives.”

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