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Cardiff University to offer coronavirus tests to thousands of staff and students

23 September 2020

Cardiff University COVID-19 testing lab

Cardiff University is to offer coronavirus (Covid-19) tests to staff and students who are showing no symptoms.

The University is among many Russell Group universities working to establish a large-scale Covid-19 screening service for the new academic year.

All campus-based University staff and students will be invited to request a test for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, after arriving on campus.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Riordan said he hoped it would send a clear message that the University wanted to “keep everyone safe” and urged staff and students to participate in the free, voluntary programme.

Students who are not showing any symptoms will be asked to book an appointment at one of three dedicated University testing stations, based at the Hadyn Ellis Building in Maindy, College House at Heath Park and Talybont Social Centre. The University will also run a collection/drop off point for home testing and a mobile collection service for staff and students as the service rolls out.

The test involves giving a saliva sample which will then be analysed on site, with the aim to provide results within 48 hours. Those who test positive must self-isolate - along with all other household members - in accordance with the latest public health guidance and they must seek a confirmatory test via the NHS.

Meanwhile, those with symptoms on arrival in Cardiff should self-isolate and book a test through the Welsh Government’s testing scheme.

Professor Riordan said: “We are encouraging all asymptomatic staff and students who come to campus regularly to take advantage of our free coronavirus testing service.

“Our aim is to detect any infections, clusters or outbreaks at the earliest possible stage so that we can take action to prevent spread. This is not a substitute for all of the other measures that we have put in place - but it will give us added comfort that we will be able to react swiftly if we do see a rise in prevalence in our University community.

“Cardiff University is a truly global institution and we are eager to send out a clear message to our prospective students all over the world that we are doing everything we can to keep them safe."

Every new measure we introduce will enable us to deliver a student experience that is as close to the complete package as possible. This is a challenging time and we hope that testing students will help bring back some confidence and normality to student life.

Professor Colin Riordan

The programme will test the University’s entire campus-based community from late September onwards. Staff and students working or learning in clinical settings offered testing first, along with those living in halls of residence, will be prioritised for testing at more regular intervals.

The University has the capacity to carry out thousands of tests per week at a purpose-built laboratory at the School of Biosciences. Following initial screening of the University community, there will also be a programme of regular testing throughout the academic year to monitor the situation.

The service is one of a raft of protective measures being put in place by the University, including:

  • Strict guidance on the number of people on campus to ensure social distancing is followed;
  • Strict 2m distancing (even if the Welsh government guidance changes to 1m);
  • Use of face coverings inside University buildings;
  • One-way walking routes around campus;
  • Additional handwashing facilities and cleaning;

Testing programme lead Professor Andrew Westwell, who is Dean of Research and Innovation in the College of Biomedical and Life Sciences, said: “Building a Covid-19 virus testing platform in these extraordinary times is part of a significant investment in the health and wellbeing of our University community."

Cardiff University's free testing service for students and staff, alongside local public health authorities, will provide early intelligence to help maintain a Covid-safe campus.

Professor Andrew D. Westwell Professor of Medicinal Chemistry

Claire Morgan, the University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor, Education and Students, said: “The testing service will not only allow us to provide greater reassurance at the start of the academic year, but it will also provide continued monitoring throughout the year.

“We are working closely with the NHS to provide additional support should it be required.

“Hopefully, by having this early-warning system in place, alongside all our other measures, we can all start to look forward to the year ahead with renewed vigour and excitement.”

The screening service will start at the end of the month when all campus-based students and staff will receive an email invitation to participate. For students this will be shortly after enrolment.