Cambridge suspends pooled asymptomatic screening programme

From Monday 31st January, the University will instead encourage the use of twice-weekly lateral flow tests.

From Monday (31/01), students will no longer participate in weekly PCR testing, following a University announcement on the suspension of the pooled asymptomatic Covid-19 screening programme. Since its launch at the beginning of the 2020/21 academic year, the scheme has offered weekly tests during term time to student and staff households affiliated with the University.

The suspension will also cover all other College-based individual PCR tests, including ‘Return to Cambridge’ tests, pre-departure tests, and confirmatory PCR tests for positive lateral flow test (LFT) results.

The announcement follows a two-week ‘Quality Assurance Exercise’ in which the University evaluated its PCR-based screening against the performance of government LFTs.

Despite the program’s suspension, an email sent to students by the University  asserts that “asymptomatic screening will continue to be crucial in helping us to identify infected students before they transmit the virus to others, reducing the risk of outbreaks and limiting disruption to University life.”

A Stay Safe Cambridge Uni poster (Image credits: Stay Safe Cambridge Uni)

The University instead advises the use of LFTs twice a week by staff and students on Mondays and Thursdays, as well as before attending high-risk events attended by large numbers of people. According to an email sent out to students, the University has ordered “thousands” of LFTs, which will be made freely available for collection from Colleges. The University warns it may take time for the order to arrive and encourages students to obtain their own LFTs via the government website or pharmacies.

For the week commencing the 17th Jan, the latest available data for the programme, 20 positive pooled tests were identified across the University, higher than any single week in Michaelmas term.

PCR tests will continue to be offered by the University for those with symptoms, available at the University Testing Pods.

Feature Image Credits: Tom Booth