COVID-19 antibody testing programme launched for students and staff

  • Date

    Thu 1 Oct 20

Colchester Test Centre

We've launched a COVID-19 rapid testing programme for students and staff returning to our three campuses in Colchester, Southend and Loughton for the autumn term.

The rapid COVID-19 IgG/IgM antibody test takes just 15-20 minutes and will be offered to all students arriving back at the University’s campuses and around 1,000 frontline staff. The testing programme aims to minimise the spread of any potential infections by ensuring the University can take appropriate action as quickly as possible.

Registrar Bryn Morris said: “The health and wellbeing of our students, our staff and those living close to our three campuses, is always our priority.

“We’re introducing this testing programme to create the safest possible environment for learning and research at our campuses. Our testing will allow us to identify any cases at the earliest possible moment and respond quickly to contain any spread of infection.

“Although the tests are voluntary we expect that our staff and students will fully support them and help all of our community to feel as confident as possible as the new term starts.”

The testing programme will be delivered by Thornbury Nursing Services at dedicated testing centres established at each campus. The ‘rapid result’ tests will focus on identifying asymptomatic individuals – people who may have COVID-19, but are not displaying the symptoms.

The test involves taking a small blood sample via a finger prick with the result ready in 15 minutes.

If someone tests positive for IgM antibodies only this means that they have been infected by COVID-19 and might still be infectious. They will be advised that they will need a follow up swab test which will be sent to a laboratory to be analysed to confirm whether they currently have COVID-19. They will be advised how to access a swab test and will be advised to isolate immediately until they have the results of this follow-up test. Swab tests will be provided at the test centres where there is a clinical need identified.

Everyone having the ‘rapid test’ at the start of term will then be tested a week later to ensure the testing programme is as effective as possible and to monitor for any increases in asymptomatic cases within the University community.

The University will then be offering the ‘rapid result’ test to a sample of students and staff on a weekly basis. On-site temperature checks are also being introduced alongside the on-going sample testing. The University will publish details of COVID-19 infection rates and other COVID-19 related information on an online digital dashboard.

Mr Morris said: “Testing is just one part of our extensive measures to protect our community on our campuses including additional hand sanitising and hand washing facilities, way finding and signage to promote social distancing and mandatory use of face coverings in teaching rooms and other appropriate locations.

“We’re phasing the reintroduction of face-to-face teaching and other on-campus activities so we can carefully monitor the impact of each phase. And we’ll be using a dual-delivery approach for all of our courses. This approach blends face-to face learning, tutorials and group work with a range of virtual lectures and other online activities enhanced by the latest digital learning tools and techniques.

“It gives us a built-in way to move to off-campus or remote delivery at any point during the year, which means less disruption and ensures our students’ wellbeing, whatever the circumstances.”