Lateral flow tests, also known as rapid tests, have been distributed to both the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England, so students can be tested before travelling out of the city for Christmas.
Unless they test positive, develop symptoms of the virus, or have been told to self-isolate, students will be encouraged to travel home between 3 and 9 December, with any remaining teaching conducted online.
The government is strongly encouraging students to undertake at least two tests, 72 hours apart, to help reduce the risks of returning home for Christmas. Students who test positive will have to self-isolate for 10 days, but will still be able to get home in time for the festive period. Anyone who is contacted by Test and Trace should also self-isolate to reduce risk of spread.
Bristol’s Director of Public Health, Christina Gray, said: “We understand it’s been a very difficult first term for our university students and we are really grateful for all their efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Bristol. While there have been high numbers of infection among the student population, this has been well contained and many students have acted responsibly to prevent spreading the virus to the wider Bristol community.
“If your test result is negative, you should still behave with extreme caution, as a negative result simply means the test has not detected any infectivity. You could still have the virus or be exposed to it, so remember: hands, face and most of all space. When you are at home, remember the virus spreads most easily indoors in unventilated spaces. So when you are with your families, please remind them of this.
“We hope you all have a wonderful festive period and well deserved break, celebrating safely with your loved ones.”
The council’s COVID marshals will be patrolling transport hubs to promote social distancing and encourage public compliance with COVID-19 public health measures during the ‘travel window’ period.
Citizens are advised to limit their travel during this period, when transport hubs may be busy, and comply with tier 3 measures.
The first day of student testing saw 742 tests carried out at the University of Bristol but there is capacity to carry out up to 900 a day until the university centres close on December 9. As of today (December 1), 8,225 tests had been booked at the university’s two testing centres.
Professor Sarah Purdy, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Student Experience at the University of Bristol, said: “We are very pleased to be able to offer our students lateral flow tests before they leave Bristol to return to their families for the Christmas break. For any student who hasn’t booked a test yet, we strongly urge them to do so. It’s quick and simple and will give you some assurance that you can travel home safely.
“Feedback from students has been positive with many telling us they are very appreciative of the opportunity to be tested. The vast majority of our students have worked hard to follow government guidelines around social distancing and keeping to their living circles during what has been an unprecedented and, at times, challenging term and, on behalf of the university, I would like to thank them for that.
“We ask that all students continue to stay safe by observing local and national restrictions and respecting those around them – this includes wearing face coverings and observing social distancing guidelines during their journeys home.”
Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor of UWE Bristol, said: “As a responsible university, we are keen to do everything we can to help students who wish to return home for Christmas. Students have been emailed a link to book a test and we strongly encourage them to do so. Even if they test positive, they’ll have plenty of time to self-isolate in their student accommodation and travel home in time for the holidays. And we’ll be here to support them.
“To our students - please remember you are part of a bigger community, and that we each have a responsibility to protect that community. Please do not host end of term parties; keep yourselves and others safe. If you are travelling home via public transport, continue to follow the hands, face, space protocol.
“For students staying on campus over the festive season, the university will still be open. Our students’ wellbeing remains our priority; our wellbeing, security and accommodation teams will be on campus every day, and support will be available.”
Lateral flow tests are different to the usual NHS PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests carried out at Local and Mobile Testing Sites. Lateral flow tests require a swab of the nose or throat, and they provide results within 15 to 30 minutes.
As of tomorrow (December 2) Bristol is in tier 3 (Very High) of the government’s local restrictions system. Read the full guidance on this here.