Kingston Uni’s mass Covid testing ahead of Christmas

Kingston University (KU) have launched a widespread Covid-19 testing programme for students and staff in the hope of preventing the spread of coronavirus as students return home to their families during December.

Working closely with Kingston Council (RBK), KU said it was offering free tests to all students and staff who were not displaying typical coronavirus symptoms such as a persistent cough or high temperature “as part of a process known as asymptomatic testing”.

Announcing the roll-out on Saturday (December 5), a spokesperson for the university said that its team with RBK had set up a testing “hub” on its Penhryn Road campus, with students and staff voluntarily able to book slots at the centre online.

The hub previously prioritised students who lived in halls of residence and private accommodation for the tests as per government health guidelines. Now all other asymptomatic students and staff can get a test.

The test features a similar nose and throat self-swab tests with ‘lateral flow devices (LFDs)’ similar to those found at government sponsored testing sites in the wider community for people who are reporting Covid symptoms.

KU said the results for students at staff would be available within the hour and sent directly to students by text shortly afterwards. Lateral flow tests can process results onsite without the need for laboratory equipment, KU pointed out.

“We have worked in close partnership with public health officials from the Royal Borough of Kingston since the start of the pandemic,” said the university’s Vice Chancellor Professor Steven Spier.

“Playing a key role in the launch of the Council’s pilot testing programme is another way in which we can proactively support measures to safeguard our local community,” he added.

The mass testing programme could help assuage fears among some staff at the university that KU’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has not been sufficient to keep them safe.

As the Surrey Comet reported previously, KU staff represented by the UCU union slammed the uni’s virus response, passing a unanimous motion of no confidence after suggesting the leadership’s commitment to a certain quota of in-person teaching for students put education workers at greater risk and was decided on without sufficient consultation — claims challenged by KU.

KU and its partners at Kingston Council will hope the new widespread testing regime will minimize any risks of transmitting the virus over the Christmas period.

“These rapid-turnaround lateral flow tests are a vital tool in helping to prevent the spread of Covid-19,” RBK’s Director of Public Health Iona Lidington said.

“A negative test result lets students know they are likely to be negative for coronavirus at the point of the test and, if they have been following the prevention measures of hands, face and space ahead of this, then they will have greater peace of mind about how safe it is to travel back to their families during the government’s designated student travel window,” she added.

Surrey Comet | Kingston