Universities chief admits not enough tests were available for students at the start of the academic year

Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Monica Lennon said she was “astonished” by the admission

Thursday, 24th September 2020, 12:30 pm
Testing kits were not available for universities, admitted Alastair Sim
Testing kits were not available for universities, admitted Alastair Sim

Universities were left without crucial testing equipment to test students returning from summer ahead of the spike in Covid-19 cases across higher education in Scotland.

Director of Universities Scotland Alastair Sim admitted that neither the UK Government or the Scottish Government had enough testing available to provide enhanced testing to universities.

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Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland to Kaye Adams, Mr Sim also said the high number of cases in Scottish universities was due to individual students not “internalising” the messages around Covid-19.

He said: “We have been in conversations with UK and Scottish governments about this and the real problem has been capacity.

"There was a big peak with schools going back and I think the testing capacity got, I wouldn’t say overwhelmed but certainly stretched that wasn’t really anticipated.

"The government, and this is both governments, could not make testing available for many students, to give you an example we were having a discussion about how can you get testing kits into universities, can we get the volume in to have the kit right there so you can test the student and not wait for something to be posted.

"That will happen, but there just wasn’t enough kit available at the beginning of term to enable that for everybody.”

Asked about whether it was the right thing to send students back, Mr Sim insisted it was and that guidance was in place to make universities safe.

He added that the rise in cases was mostly down to students not following the rules.

He said: “I think what happened at the very beginning of this term for institutions where it has already started is just at that very beginning, the message didn’t get through to some students.

"Some students have been responsible, but some and this is a matter of regret, heard the messages and somehow didn’t internalise them and went on and visited other households and partied and this disease is just so infectious.

"I think a very small minority of students having heard the messages, somehow didn’t internalise the message. I think they’ve got the message now.

"Students have realised, most had already but just that minority have realised that putting themselves and their friends and wider community at risk isn’t a clever thing to do

Health spokesperson for Scottish Labour, Monica Lennon, said the revelation was “astonishing”.

She said: “It’s clearly a very worrying situation in Glasgow and indeed right across Scotland.

"I am absolutely astonished to hear Alastair Sim from Universities Scotland admit that the infrastructure just wasn’t in place to keep people safe in terms of test and protect.

"Yes there will be some students who haven’t followed the guidance, haven’t acted responsibly, but to blame young people and to blame students for what has happened when we’ve just heard that there have been discussions between the university sector and the UK and Scottish government, and they couldn’t put testing facilities in place.

"That really is astonishing and it is going to cost people their health, it could cost some people their life.”

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