Mass covid testing for students heading home from Scottish universities for Christmas

Mass testing of students planning to head home for Christmas will begin at the end of the month at some Scottish universities.

Testing: Students will be offered mass testing
Testing: Students will be offered mass testing

Edinburgh and St Andrews universities have announced plans to offe voluntary covid tests to students from November 30.

The Scottish Government is working with universities across the country and the UK Government’s testing programme to offer free lateral flow testing, which can provide results in 30 minutes.

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

Announcing plans for the testing programme at the Scottish Parliament last week, higher education minister Richard Lochhead said students are being recommended to take two tests, five days apart.

Those with a positive result will then have the more sensitive PCR test, used in the main coronavirus testing programme, for confirmation.

He said the lateral flow tests will be offered on a “voluntary basis to all students who are returning home”.

Those who test positive will be asked to self-isolate, as will their close contacts.

The University of Edinburgh is urging any students wishing to travel home in the UK for the winter break to get tested, particularly those with vulnerable family members or who plan to use public transport.

Two testing centres are being set up and will be open from 10am to 8.30pm from November 30 to December 9.

In a statement to students, the university said the test timings mean even those who require to self-isolate should be able to return home “in time for the winter break” once their isolation is complete.

The University of St Andrews is offering the tests to both students who are leaving for the holidays and those who are remaining in the town.

It plans to open a testing centre in the university’s sports centre by November 30.

The university said students should receive test results with 24 hours “and possibly much faster”.

Those with negative results are being urged to leave within 24 hours if possible to minimise the risk of contracting the virus in the interim.

A spokesman 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.”

The news comes as Health Secrertary Jeane Freeman vowed ene million Scots will be given a Covid-19 vaccine by the end of January.

Ms Freeman told the Scottish Parliament that everyone in Scotland over the age of 18 will be offered a vaccine by Spring 2021.

The vaccination campaign will run from December to Spring, and aims to vaccinate everyone over 18.

In the first wave from December to February, the highest priority groups will be targeted.

This includes frontline NHS workers, care home staff, unpaid carers, those over 80 and those delivering the vaccine programme.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.