Testing starts at Nottingham’s universities for safe return home of students

Nottingham’s two universities have begun testing thousands of students to enable them to safely leave the city ahead of the winter break during the ‘student travel window’ 3-9 December.

Both universities have worked with the city council and local public health partners to develop comprehensive plans to support the Government’s programme for the safe movements of students before Christmas.

They are moving teaching online from 9 December until the end of term and are using both the Government’s Lateral Flow Test and the University of Nottingham’s Asymptomatic Testing Service to test their 60,000 students and provide additional reassurance.

He added: “Thanks to our preparations and local partnership work – and by testing and isolating students quickly – we have been able to drastically reduce our active cases of Covid to a point where there are now fewer than 20 cases in a student population of 35,000.

“We hope that sharing these departure plans will offer reassurance that we are taking this incredibly seriously and working closely with partners to try to keep our city as safe as possible.”

Steve Denton, Chief Operating Officer and Registrar at Nottingham Trent University, said: “Our team has worked extremely hard to construct and kit out five COVID-secure testing sites in such a short space of time, and more than 100 NTU colleagues have volunteered to help students get tested so that they can travel safely for their winter break.

“The overwhelming majority of our students are aware of their responsibility to keep themselves, their community, and their friends and family safe. This is reflected in the high uptake of Lateral Flow Testing, with several thousand tests being booked within the first 24 hours of being available.”

Fast detection

The government’s lateral flow test detects antigens via a quick swab down the back of the throat and up the nose. Students are informed of the results of the test via SMS and/or email, using the information they provide to the service on the day.

The University of Nottingham’s asymptomatic test detects the virus through a simple saliva sample and students should receive the result the next day. This test is being offered to all staff and students, with a recommendation to test at least once a week for the foreseeable future. Participants should receive the result the next day.

Once students have taken either test, they are asked to limit contact with others until they receive their result. Students who test negative will be able to travel, while those who test positive should isolate in line with the Government guidance However, testing has been timed to ensure that if anyone is required to isolate, they should still be able to travel for Christmas, should they choose.

While many students will leave campus for the winter break, others will remain in Nottingham. These include international students and those who already call the city home. Both universities are planning to provide activities, practical and wellbeing support for those students who remain in Nottingham.

Reducing transmission

With a Government announcement expected soon around the return of students in January, both universities will be sharing more detailed information in due course about how staggered start dates and testing will feature in their local plans.

Alison Challenger, Director of Public Health in Nottingham, said: “Testing is an important tool that can help students reduce the risks of transmission and protect themselves and others – and, ultimately, to be able to travel home safely from Nottingham. Until we have a vaccine in place, test, trace and isolate is the main way of helping to reduce the spread of infection among our population – coupled with best-practice guidance on ‘hands/face/space’.

“We know a large number of students have already booked tests but would urge all students to take up the offer of a rapid lateral flow test. It is vital that we do everything we can and work together to reduce the spread of this virus. From having one of the highest rates of Covid in the country, Nottingham is now below the national average for cases per 100,000 population. This has involved much hard work and sacrifice from Nottingham City residents but to see COVID-19 rates continue to fall we need to ensure we all continue to stick to the rules, regardless of the test results.”