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University of Cambridge offers students weekly test for SARS-CoV-2

The University of Cambridge is to offer all undergraduate and postgraduate students living in college accommodation a weekly test for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, even if they show no symptoms.

The Senate House of the University of Cambridge
The Senate House of the University of Cambridge

When term begins on October 8, around 15,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students will be resident in accommodation belonging to one of Cambridge's 31 colleges. To reduce the risk of transmission among the Cambridge community, the university will be launching their own programme to test all of these students on a weekly basis.

The test will be self-administered using a swab to take a sample from the nose and throat. Samples will be pooled by household to reduce the number of samples analysed and make the programme manageable using limited testing capacity. For most colleges, a household is classified as a unit where students share communal facilities, such as bathroom or kitchen.

Samples will be sent to the Cambridge Covid-19 testing facility at the Anne McLaren Building on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus. If a pooled household test is positive, students will be informed within 24 hours and offered an individual test to confirm the positive result. Students with a confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection and their household and contacts will be supported in following national guidance on isolation.

Professor J Stephen Toope, vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell. (42190639)
Professor J Stephen Toope, vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell. (42190639)

Professor Stephen J Toope, vice-chancellor, said: “We look forward to welcoming our students back to Cambridge and want to reassure them – and the wider local community – that we are doing everything we can to make sure they feel safe and supported while they are here. This screening programme is just one of a number of measures that we are putting in place to keep our university and city safe.

“Although the programme is voluntary, we are confident that the overwhelming majority of students will want to take part as this will help ensure they are able to enjoy and make the most of the Cambridge experience in the current challenging circumstances.”

Due to limited capacity, the university is not offering testing to all students. The risk of transmission and outbreaks is expected to be higher in college accommodation, where the density of students and potential for interactions are greater, so the programme is targeted at these students.

In addition to the asymptomatic screening programme, the university is providing Covid-19 testing free of charge to any member of the university displaying symptoms, along with members of their household, and any student showing possible symptoms should use these facilities. Testing is currently available at either Addenbrooke’s Hospital or at the Department of Engineering.

For more details, visit cam.ac.uk/coronavirus/stay-safe-cambridge-uni/ .

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