Test and Travel: Your Choices

The University has today announced their plans for mass COVID-19 testing on campus, in order to ensure that those who wish to travel home for Christmas can safely do so. It’s important that you understand the choices open to you and the impact that this testing regime will have on your academic experience as we head towards the end of term. Please read all of the information available on the information hub that the College has created.

Following on from the Government’s announcement two weeks ago regarding a ‘travel window’, myself and the entire Students’ Union team have been incredibly impressed with the tremendous amount of work that the College’s staff team have put into delivering testing. They have developed a comprehensive set of operational and logistical plans from a standing start with practically no notice, involving the Students’ Union at every stage in the process and ensuring that they have constantly consulted us on the best choices for students.

What’s involved in testing?

Testing is available to all students and staff free of charge, and is targeted at individuals that have no symptoms (asymptomatic) - if you have symptoms of COVID-19 you need to book a test via the NHS. It’s not mandatory and it is your choice whether you would like to book a test or not, however, I would absolutely encourage you all to take part in the testing regime as a way of reducing the risk to your friends, family, and peers.

The tests are called ‘lateral flow tests’ and you will need to take two within three days of one another. You should get your results within an hour or so of taking the test, depending on demand. If either of these tests come back as positive, you will then need to take a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test which is commonly used in the NHS for testing people showing symptoms.

On the topic of positive results, there is no stigma attached to this. It’s better to know and be able to take action than unknowingly taking the virus home with you where you may infect those closest to you. There is lots of support available to help you through the self-isolation period if you test positive and you will still be able to travel home for Christmas once you’ve completed your self-isolation, thanks to the early window of testing.

Due to a requirement to travel home (if applicable) within 24 hours of receiving a negative test, you will be assigned specific slots in which to book your test which will also include a date for you to travel home (if you wish to do so). The link for booking tests will open next week and we’ll share this via our social media channels when it is available.

What does this mean for education?

Ensuring you can be successful in your studies is the top priority and to support this the vast majority of teaching will move online by 9 December, in line with government requirements. There’s a need to stress the majority part here, as it will vary from course to course depending on the subject you are studying so please do check with your individual departments.

Alongside this, there are going to be changes to assessments, extensions, and extenuating circumstances and your VP Education Alissa Chohan will be releasing a more comprehensive blog next week on these specific elements as the final details are ironed out.

If you are remaining on campus after 9 December, a number of services will continue to be available to you including access to the Library, wellbeing, and welfare support services.

In the new year, timetabled face-to-face teaching is scheduled to return from 11 January and the arrangements for returning to campus are going to be shared as soon as practically possible.

Unprecedented situation

You would have expected the word unprecedented to have lost its lustre by now but it’s very applicable here. The College have never been in a position like this and they’re doing everything they can to support you. I know that for some of you the dates you have been assigned for testing won’t work, and that will be incredibly frustrating, but this is an incredibly complex operation and it’s impossible to deliver a personalised solution that would work for thousands of individuals within such a short timeframe.

You’re bound to have questions following the announcement and I’ll be joining some of the College’s senior leaders for a Q&A session on MS Teams on Monday 23 November at 5pm. In the meantime, please do check out the information hub to see if your question has already been answered there.

I ask that you please do take the time to seriously consider your choice. By playing your part and following the guidelines we’ll edge our way out of this pandemic, and slowly but surely we’ll get there and we’ll return to normality.