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Universities roll out rapid COVID-19 tests to help students travel home safely for Christmas

Oxford Brookes University and the University of Oxford are offering students free and fast COVID-19 tests so that they can travel home safely this Christmas and prevent the further spread of the coronavirus to friends, families and the community.

The tests will begin on Oxford Brookes campuses this weekend and at Oxford colleges by 30 November.  They are part of detailed end of term arrangements, put in place in consultation with local authorities to ensure students can leave Oxford in a managed way, and in line with Government guidance.

Testing programmes

The ‘Lateral Flow Tests’ will only be available to students who do not have COVID-19 symptoms (known as ‘Asymptomatic Testing’).

All students will be advised to get tested twice, three days apart. Once students have received two negative test results they are advised to return home. If a student tests positive, they will need to take a confirmatory PCR test (via NHS testing centres such as the on-site centre at Oxford Brookes Headington Campus, or for Oxford University students via the University’s two dedicated testing facilities) and self-isolate for ten days before returning home.

Linda King, Professor of Virology and Pro Vice-Chancellor – Research and Global Partnerships at Oxford Brookes University, said: “Breaking the chain of transmission is key to controlling the virus. We’re strongly encouraging students to take these tests to help stop the spread of the virus, protect family and friends and save lives.”

Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Education, at the University of Oxford said: “Oxford University’s end of term testing programme is an unprecedented and concerted effort across the University and colleges to help ensure students protect their families and friends. It’s an important part of our arrangements for the end of term, which we are confident will allow students to leave Oxford in a safe and orderly way to spend time at home.”

Teaching and travel arrangements

The testing arrangements align with the Government’s national guidance in which all students across the country are being asked to travel home during a ‘Christmas travel window’ between 3 and 9 December.

The Government has advised universities that all teaching must take place online from 9 December. However, both universities in Oxford have confirmed that most in-person teaching will finish on 4 December, with exceptions for a small number of students such as those carrying out healthcare placements as they are exempt from the guidance.

Students who are planning to travel home by private vehicle are advised to avoid car sharing with anyone outside of their household or support bubble. Where this isn’t possible, they are being asked to follow the safer travel guidance for passengers to reduce the risk of transmission.

Students who need to travel by public transport have been advised to pre-book and avoid busy routes and times – and to follow university and Government guidance at all times.

While students are being encouraged to travel home for the Christmas break, both universities are making plans to ensure that appropriate support is in place over the Christmas period for those that stay in Oxford.

Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council, said: “Oxford’s two universities have worked effectively together alongside the Director of Public Health and the City and County Councils to help bring down the number of COVID-19 cases among students. I welcome today’s announcement of their test and travel approach which will enable students to join their families and be safely united for Christmas. The staggered departure arrangements will be a relief to local residents as it should help minimise travel disruption in the city.”

Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “The universities and students are a very important part of the community of Oxford. Our Public Health team is working closely with both universities and Oxford City Council to ensure that students can return home safely to spend the Christmas period with their families. The testing that will be in place, together with the planned phased departure of students from the city, will help reduce the risk of transmission, and it is another example of how our organisations are working together closely to respond to COVID-19.

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