Mass testing to open up for students from next week
Students travelling home to Orkney for the festive period will be able to take voluntary COVID-19 tests through their college or university from next Monday.
As part of a number of measures to support a safe return home, students are also being asked to take extra care in the period leading up their departure, only going out for essential purposes such as learning, exercise and food shopping.
This is to minimise the number of contacts they have with others and reduce the potential for spread of the virus.
Universities and colleges will be utilising lateral flow devices (LFDs) — a clinically validated swab antigen test that does not require a laboratory for processing and can produce rapid results within half an hour at the location of the test.
Students will be offered two LFD tests, spaced three days apart which are bookable through their college or university. Those receiving two negative results will be encouraged to safely return home as soon as is practical after the second result.
If either of the lateral flow tests returns a positive result, the student will be asked to self-isolate and undertake a confirmatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test through the usual NHS Test & Protect channels.
Colleges and universities will have specific information for students on the care and support that will be available for those who are either not returning home, or who are having to self-isolate.
Minister for further and higher education Richard Lochhead said: “Our priority is to ensure that students who wish to go home at the end of term can do so while keeping themselves, their families, friends and communities safe.
“We are asking that students continue living at their term-time accommodation for now and minimise any opportunity to pick up the virus by limiting themselves to only essential reasons to mix with others.
“Voluntary testing will also be available from next Monday. This is part of a huge UK-wide effort by colleges and universities to test asymptomatic students before they leave their term-time accommodation.
“I want to thank all students for their tremendous resilience and patience this academic year and I know that they will continue to do all they can to stay safe and ensure a happy reunion with their loved ones.”
Professor Gerry McCormac, convener of Universities Scotland, said: “Students who intend to return home this Christmas should take the test for people without symptoms as soon as possible.
“The test is quick and free and the results are available fast. The tests are a helpful extra step to take to keep your family and friends and the wider community safe from COVID-19 this Christmas.
“A double negative result will give you more confidence to travel home but it doesn’t change the need to practise personal safety measures; wear a face covering, avoid crowds, keep two metres distance and wash your hands regularly to minimise your risk.
“This has been a challenging term for students and I want to thank them for their continued vigilance against the virus. I also want to put on record my thanks and admiration for the staff involved in making these testing centres a reality as well as those who will be working in them.
“To have these testing centres open so quickly is a testament to our dedicated staff as well as the partnership approach across colleges and universities to ensure that as many students as possible get tested.”
Updated guidance has now been published on the Scottish Government website for students on minimising social contact, testing and end of term travel — whether to other parts of Scotland, the UK or the world.