Plans to support students to return safely.
Thousands of students in Scotland will be tested for coronavirus (COVID-19) under plans to allow those wishing to return home at the end of term, to do so safely.
In a statement to Parliament, Further and Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead outlined the measures being taken by colleges and universities to support the safe return of up to 80,000 students ahead of the winter break.
The plans include a widespread COVID-19 testing scheme, which is expected to be rolled out by the start of December.
Enabling easy access to testing for students with COVID-19 symptoms has already proved to be effective in controlling outbreaks. Now Scottish students will be included in a UK-wide initiative to test some asymptomatic students prior to the end of term.
The Government is working in partnership with institutions and the UK Government’s testing programme on the logistics of offering both lateral flow testing – a new rapid test currently being used in Liverpool, which can deliver a COVID result in about 15-20 minutes - and if needed a more sensitive PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, which may take up to a day or longer to produce a result.
The other measures outlined by Mr Lochhead include:
- All students will receive early, clear advice on staying safe. Those who chose to stay in student accommodation over the holiday period will also be well supported
- There will be staggered and early departure from campuses, with universities being asked to make any necessary adjustments to scheduling, to ensure in-person teaching and assessment ends early enough to allow students time to get home at the end of term
- Any student who wants to return home for the end of term, is being asked to voluntarily reduce their social mixing for two weeks before going home. This means going out only for essential reasons and exercise
- All college and university students travelling home will be given advice on how to do so safely, which includes following public health advice on the use of public transport
Mr Lochhead said:
“Covid 19 is a challenge for all of us, our students included.
“We have all worked hard to support students in gaining an education this term, and like everyone else we have learnt and adapted as we have progressed.
“Our challenge is to look after the wellbeing of our students by enabling them to return home, while at the same time keeping them, their loves ones, and communities safe.
“Testing will play a role – but only a limited role. My message to students is, ‘thank you for all your efforts, and please keep doing all you can to keep yourself and others safe’.
“I have no doubt the majority of students will want to act responsibly, and will follow the measures that will be set out.”
Further information and guidance will shortly be published on the Scottish Government website.