UEA has announced coronavirus testing will be made available to all staff and students working on campus from the beginning of the new semester. Any individuals will be encouraged to sign up for the scheme in the early weeks of the academic year, although testing will not be compulsory for anyone at this stage. Those wishing to be tested do not have to show symptoms of COVID-19 to qualify.
Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences Dylan Edwards said of the scheme: “We believe this approach will help UEA to identify, as early as possible, any cases of coronavirus. This will help to protect the UEA community and the people of Norwich.” Many believe students returning to university from across the world are likely to cause a second spike in coronavirus cases, so this announcement is not only reassuring to those working on campus, but to the community as a whole.
The announcement follows the successful testing trial which took place at the Earlham Institute over the summer, in which around 800 staff and students at the Norwich Research Park were asked to swab their own noses and throats multiple times throughout the course of several weeks. Whilst none of the approximately 3000 tests provided during this trial were positive, it demonstrated the testing capabilities of the Institute, as well as showing the impact ‘silent spreaders’ of coronavirus could have: those without symptoms who continue to go about their daily lives and infect others unknowingly.
The news of the testing scheme has been well received by current students, with one person stating: “it’s pretty reassuring”. Another claimed: “the fact people are being tested does give me a bit of reassurance though because at least it will hopefully stop a mass outbreak across the University”. Others have a slightly more sceptical take on the situation, having said: “I don’t trust the University to effectively monitor social distancing or a one way system around campus, which are much easier things to do, so there’s no way this testing program will last”.
The University is set to provide all staff and students with two reusable and washable face masks for use in and around university buildings, including the library, where all students will be required to wear coverings until sitting down in a prior booked study space. A one way system has been set up across campus with floor markings to direct traffic in a way that minimises face-to-face interactions, and university buildings have introduced designated entrances and exits.
The University of Cambridge is providing weekly testing to those staying in university accommodation and colleges, and Cardiff University has established a testing service with strong encouragement for students to participate in a similar manner to UEA.