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Universities: Coronavirus

Question for Department for Education

UIN 109590, tabled on 30 October 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans he has to increase covid-19 testing capacity in and around universities at the end of the 2020 autumn term.

Answered on

4 November 2020

We have quickly established walk-through sites and deployed mobile test sites so that almost all universities are within 1.5 miles, allowing staff and students to get access to tests should they develop symptoms. Testing capacity is the highest it has ever been and we are seeing significant demand. The department continues to work closely with the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), and with sector representatives, to ensure that any students who display symptoms can have quick and easy access to testing.

As part of our ongoing work to develop new testing technology, we are currently piloting the use of lateral flow tests with a number of universities. This is a clinically validated swab antigen test that does not require a laboratory for processing and can turnaround rapid results within an hour at the location of the test. Piloting this technology will help us better understand where to best use it and how it can be operationalised in the real world; to protect those at high risk, find the virus and help enable us to go back to as normal a way of life as possible. They will also form the foundations to delivering mass testing, testing large numbers of people in a short period of time, with test results made available quickly, so that people in environments such as schools, colleges, and universities can be reassured more quickly that they are not infected, or isolate themselves more quickly if they are.

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