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24th November 2020

Exclusive: Manchester University reveals Christmas plan to get students home

New guidance has been released by the University today, fleshing out how the ‘student travel window’ will work
Exclusive: Manchester University reveals Christmas plan to get students home
Manchester University Christmas testing plans have been announced. Photo: University of Manchester

Manchester University has revealed its plan to get students home for Christmas, with undergraduates advised to leave campus once they have tested negative for Covid-19 twice. 

New guidance was released by the University today fleshing out how the “student travel window” will work between the 3rd and 9th of December.

Tens of thousands of tests will be carried out over this period and beyond.

Bosses have created a website which contains all the information and has a system where students can book a test. 

The University is staggering the leaving dates for students

An email to students read: “If you intend to travel home from Manchester University over Christmas, we strongly encourage you to take two tests, 72 hours apart.

“This means that you are reducing the risk of transmission to other people while you travel and friends and family when you’re back at home.

“In line with government requirements and to reduce pressure on transport, we have suggested dates, ordered by school, when you should book your tests. We have established four testing sites, and can accommodate several thousand tests each day. 

“To find out how testing works, where to get tested and to book your slot, visit our end of semester travel and testing website. There’s also information about what to do when you get your results.

“The tests may not be suitable for people planning international travel, those on NHS placements, or people with symptoms or who are already self-isolating, so please check the website for further details. 

“You must not get tested using this method if you have symptoms of COVID-19.” 

Inside a Manchester University testing bay in University place. Photo: University of Manchester
Inside a testing bay in University place. Photo: University of Manchester

Students are being encouraged to use private modes of travel where possible, rather than buses or trains. For those staying on campus over Christmas, a programme of support will be announced soon. 

Arpana Verma, Professor of Public Health and Epidemiology, who’s been involved in the Manchester University Christmas travel arrangements, sat down with The Mancunion to explain how everything would work. 

What do students need to know? 

We’re launching today our new website and booking system for asymptomatic testing for students that will help them go home safely. We’ve got four sites that are going to be opening up. These are based in Sackville Street, Owens Park Great Hall, Owens Park Little court and University Place.

You can access a booking system through the website. The test itself is one of the rapid antigen tests. We are strongly recommending students attend their test based on the timetable that we’ve put on the website.

Tell us about the work that’s been happening behind the scenes. The University has obviously been working on this at breakneck speed. 

It’s something that we have been working closely with our public health colleagues in the local authority, with Public Health England, as well as the Department of Health and Social Care.

We’ve got a lot of support for students to help them at every stage of the process, including when they start getting their test results, and so that they can understand what the test results actually mean for them.

All of the behind the scenes work has been to ensure that the students are at the heart of all of this. And we’ve been very fortunate that Junior from the Student Union and his colleagues have been helping us with all of the activities to make sure that we’re thinking of everything.

It sounds like a logistical nightmare, are you confident the University can carry this out?  

Very much so. We’ve been working with each of the schools within each of the faculties so that we’ve got the right numbers and also as the ability to get through the numbers of testing. We’ve got access for two tests that are needed for each person. That’s enough for all undergraduates, postgraduates, and our postgraduate research students as well.

What happens if a student tests positive, does that mean they can’t go home? 

We have tried to do it so that people have time to isolate before Christmas. What we’re advising is if you test positive, you isolate. We then ask you to do a normal, what we call a PCR test, as a confirmatory test, as well. Once you’ve finished your isolation, you’ll be able to go home.

Getting tested is advisory, do you recommend that all students have the tests done? What’s your message to them?

It is completely voluntary. We know that many students will be going home for the winter break, and we want it to be as safe as possible for you, your families and the communities that you’re from.

This is part of a much bigger mass testing strategy that the government have announced. But really, it’s just so key for your well being and that of your families.

What work is being done to get students back again in January? 

We’ll be sending out further communications very soon. That will explain what we’re planning to make sure it’s safe coming back onto campus.

Is there anything else students need to know? 

In all of the communications, we’ve tried to ensure that we are able to make the test as accessible as possible. We’re very keen to hear about anyone who is worried or would need any additional support so that they can access the test.

Our student union colleagues have just been fantastic with being able to get that message across.

We have put in place services to support students with disabilities, and made everything as accessible as possible. But we are very keen to hear if there were any issues. We want to make this the easiest possible way for you to get tested and for you to get your results and go home safe.

To find out more about the Manchester University Christmas plans, visit the Covid-19 testing website

Josh Sandiford

Josh Sandiford

Deputy Editor

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