Students returning home for Christmas urged to take Covid test

Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

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Students travelling home for Christmas will be able to take voluntary coronavirus tests their college or university from Monday, the Scottish Government has announced today.

They are also being asked to take extra care leading up their departure by only going out for essential purposes such as learning, exercise and food shopping.

The government said this is to minimise the number of contacts they have and reduce the potential for spread of the virus.

Updated guidance has now been published for students on minimising social contact, testing and end of term travel – whether to other parts of Scotland, the UK or the world.

Richard Lochhead MSP, minister for further and higher education, 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 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.’

Mr Lochhead thanked students for their ‘tremendous resilience and patience’ and wished them a safe and happy reunion with their loved ones.

Matt Crilly, president of the National Union of Students Scotland, added: ‘The introduction of mass testing for students and staggered departure dates are warmly welcome and will be a relief to many students and families across Scotland allowing students to return home safely this winter.

‘But we now have our part to play and so I’d strongly encourage any student moving household over the holidays to plan ahead and get tested if you can.’

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.’

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.

For more information, visit https://www.studentinformation.gov.scot/coronavirus/students-returning-home

Advice for travelling: https://www.transport.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/transport-transition-plan/advice-on-how-to-travel-safely/#overview

CAPTION: Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images