Durham’s mass test trial helps students return for Christmas

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Mass testing will open for livers-out and more livers-in over the next few weeks, as Durham prepares for students’ return home for the Christmas holidays. Three central testing sites will see the mass rollout of a new Covid-19 test that aims to identify asymptomatic students within half an hour of a test.

Durham is still the only university in the UK distributing Lateral Flow Tests (LFTs) widely and on a self-administered basis, with those living in Stephenson, Van Mildert and University Colleges already signing up to a pilot scheme.

Testing sites on Palace Green and the Racecourse will be open from Tuesday 24th November to Thursday 3rd December, where testing will operate on an “opt-in” basis. A facility at the Sports and Wellbeing Park will also start work next Tuesday, and continue until at least Monday 14th December, three days after the end of term.

The University has added a Covid-19 Self Testing module to DUO, providing information for students and staff on how to take the test, complete with videos, a quiz and FAQ section.

All of our students will have our full support.

Professor Stuart Corbridge

Most departments are to move to online teaching from 7th December, as the University continues to trial the new LFTs in several colleges. Students have been told to avoid travelling home until the end of the national lockdown on 2nd December, just before a national “student travel window” from 3rd to 9th December. The combination of mass testing and online teaching is hoped to provide a smooth transition into the winter holidays.

The Bill Bryson Library and the Sports and Wellbeing Park will remain open for most of the winter holidays, as will access to catering for students. The form of catering will vary by college situation, but will at least include a pantry or self-catered kitchen, and potentially a central catering facility to buy meals. The university’s current plan is to resume in Term 2 with a “blended model of face to face teaching and online learning”.

The news comes as Covid-19 cases dwindle in Durham, with daily cases now in single figures. Cases have decreased significantly at most universities since the first few weeks of term, and Durham still leads nationally in terms of cases as a proportion of the total student and staff population.

Professor Stuart Corbridge, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, said: “We know that many of our students very much want to spend the winter break at home, while others will choose or need to remain in Durham. All of our students will have our full support.

“We continue to work very closely with local and national partners, including the Department for Health and Social Care, Department for Education, University of Oxford, Public Health England and Durham County Council on this testing programme and are grateful for their support.

“We are proud to be at the cutting edge of mass testing and to be making a significant contribution to the local and national effort to reduce the spread of Covid-19. We believe that by our students and staff participating in this testing programme, everyone’s chances of enjoying a safe and healthy winter vacation will be increased.”

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