Universities prepare end-of-term Covid testing blitz to get students home for Christmas and avoid two-week campus lockdown over festive season
- The Prime Minister issued a pledge to ‘get students home safely for Christmas’
- But there are fears the virus could spread around the UK rapidly at end of term
- Government issued proposal for blanket testing with alternative being lockdown
Universities are drawing up plans for a mass student testing regime to get students home for Christmas in an attempt to avoid a two-week campus lockdown over the festive period.
It is hoped that a testing blitz will help deliver the Prime Minister’s pledge to ‘get students home safely for Christmas’ but will stop the virus from spreading around the UK at the end of term.
The Government’s alternative proposal is to place students under a lockdown on campus for two weeks before the holidays with all teaching carried out online.
But this was met with opposition by vice-chancellors who branded the plans ‘non-sensical’.
Universities are drawing up plans for a mass student testing regime to get students home for Christmas in an attempt to avoid a two-week campus lockdown. Pictured: Mobile testing centre at Durham University where almost 1,000 students tested positive
‘The plan to keep students in their rooms for two weeks is nonsensical,’ one university leader told The Telegraph.
‘What if they go to a shop to buy a cheese sandwich? How will the shop know they are a student?
‘Who will stop their mums and dad picking them up? You can’t discriminate against them. The solution is around testing.’
It is thought that if testing plans go ahead only students who test positive will remain on campus to isolate with others being allowed to return home if they are not exhibiting symptoms.
But other university leaders have warned that blanket testing of students would be a ‘complete waste of testing capacity’ and should instead be targeted at those travelling from high risk areas to their homes in less effected parts of the country.
Speaking about the proposed two-week lockdown, University and College Union general secretary Jo Grady said: ‘This is an unworkable and chaotic set of measures that will be impossible to deliver or oversee.
It is thought only students who test positive will remain on campus to isolate with others being allowed to return home if they are not exhibiting symptoms. Pictured: Students self isolating at Talybont South halls of residence at Cardiff University
‘Instead of this perverse obsession with Christmas, ministers and universities must focus on the here and now. We should be talking about getting people home now, not in two months’ time.
‘The mass relocation of over a million students is going to take time and serious resources, as is looking after them while they are forced into quarantine or lockdown.
‘We are currently moving into stricter UK wide measures, yet in-person activities are continuing on campus causing infections to rise. Students are yo-yoing in and out of self-isolation and universities are seeking to profiteer on basic care packages.
‘This is a terrible plan that has been drawn up without the input of the people it affects the most, staff and students.
‘This is a government completely out of touch with the public and seemingly unaware of what happens at universities.
‘Instead of continuing on its path of negligence, the government needs to scrap this unworkable plan now.’
A spokesman for the Department for Education told MailOnline: ‘All students will be able to go home at Christmas if they so choose.
‘However, if students are travelling home, we must ensure they do so in a way which minimises the risks of spreading the virus, and the date when universities must stop in-person teaching will be an important part of this. We will set out details on this shortly.
‘We have issued clear guidance setting out four tiers of restrictions for education settings, and continue to work closely with universities and public health officials to make decisions about what measures need to be applied to respond appropriately to the situation locally.’