Welsh Universities say it may be impossible to test every student before they return home

Students have been told to leave by 9th December

A staggering 1.2 million students are expected to move at Christmas from their university term-time address to a home in another part of the UK, where there might be different levels of infection. This has naturally caused a great deal of concern.

The Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, has asked that students leave by December 9th. She further said that students will be offered 24-hour turnaround tests to avoid taking the virus home to various locations across the UK. The timing also means that students will still have time to isolate and get home for Christmas should they test positive.

The government has said that all universities will have enough lateral flow devices to test all students and staff at least twice before travelling home.

Cardiff University has stated that despite these plans to send everyone home for Christmas, on campus teaching would need to continue for international students who began programmes of study in November, until the end of term on the 18th December. Some programmes and placements would also mean that it isn’t possible to cut off the in-person teaching.

The chief operating officer for Swansea University, Dr Andre Rhodes, said: “Asymptotic testing means students have to be tested twice, with a three-day gap between the first and second test, so in practice, in would be impossible to test all students before they travel home, given the very tight timescales.”

In a discussion at BBC Radio Wales Breakfast with Claire Summers, Rhodes states that in England there are tests going out daily at some universities at a rate of 1,500 per day.

He told the radio broadcast: “If we were testing 21,500 people twice, at that rate of 1,500 tests a day, it would take a month – we’ve actually got about three days”.

The Deputy Vice Chancellor of USW, Dr Ben Calvert, agreed with Rhodes’ statement, saying: “I don’t think we will get everybody tested…the logistics of that will be very difficult”.

Cardiff University are supposedly awaiting additional information regarding the testing pilot.

A Cardiff University spokesperson said: “Regardless of the pilot our aim is to offer a university asymptomatic test to all students who want one, so they can make informed choices about returning home safely for Christmas. We have the capacity to do this in-house and we will be updating students shortly.”

The Welsh government stated: “The tests will be offered at all universities in Wales. Universities have been involved in developing asymptomatic testing capability which will help testing capacity.

“Tests will be available daily and universities have agreed to a phased and managed end to term”.

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