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Covid-19 testing for students without symptoms at University of Northampton

Date 20.11.2020

The University of Northampton – in partnership with the Government – is launching a programme of testing for students without symptoms to reduce the risk of COVID-19 being passed on to loved ones over Christmas.

From 30 November, testing will be available for students who live in halls of residence or private rented accommodation in Northamptonshire. The Government’s Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) says that use of multiple new testing technologies could significantly improve the detection of positive cases and help prevent the spread of the disease.

The tests that will be used are Lateral Flow Tests (LFT) – a new kind of technology that could be used to test a higher proportion of asymptomatic people who do not know they are infected – and therefore have a high likelihood of spreading virus – to break the chain of transmission.

LFTs can process COVID-19 samples on site without the need for laboratory equipment, with most generating results in under half an hour.

Anyone testing positive for the virus will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace and asked to isolate and book a confirmatory Polymerise Chain Reaction (PCR) test which is specifically for those with symptoms. The University has made extensive preparations to support students who need to isolate, including access to mental health services and care packages with food and essentials.

University of Northampton Director of Estates and Campus Services Becky Bradshaw said: “It has been a significant task to convert our sports facilities into a temporary testing site, but we must do all we can to ensure our students who choose to go home over Christmas can do so as safely as possible. Participation in the testing is completely voluntary, but we hope that families with relatives who are studying at the University will have peace of mind that – if that student has had negative results in the test – they are much more likely to return home with a greatly reduced risk to the people they love.

“Our case numbers at the University have remained low through the pandemic because our students have taken their responsibility to the community seriously. Therefore, we are delighted to be able to support them to return home – or stay at the University if they wish – over Christmas. The testing programme and scope is being reviewed in readiness for students’ return in January.”

The testing programme has been launched by DHSC to support students who live away from home at term time. The non-symptomatic tests are not available to students that live at home and commute to University daily.

The University has detailed clinical operating procedures, developed in collaboration with clinical experts, for the testing site. Layouts have been carefully designed to ensure people can move around them safely and prevent spread of the virus; social distancing will be maintained throughout the testing process; and people attending the sites will be asked to wear a face covering.