University of Portsmouth sets up Covid-19 testing centre for staff and students without symptoms

THE city’s university has become one of the country’s first to set up its own Covid testing centre for staff and students.

By Neil Fatkin
Friday, 18th September 2020, 1:34 pm
Updated Friday, 18th September 2020, 2:23 pm

The mobile facility, run in conjunction with medical technology company NTL Biologica, is targeting a rolling programme with 10 per cent of the university’s population tested every fortnight.

It will test asymptomatic students and staff to identify those who have the virus and notify the regional NHS Test and Trace team.

Being able to identify symptomless individuals and the people they have been in contact with is crucial in combating the virus. Around 40 per cent of Covid transmissions are asymptomatic, the World Health Organisation says.

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Students and staff register for Covid testing at the mobile facility. Picture: Habibur Rahman

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The university’s vice-chancellor, Professor Graham Galbraith, told The News: ‘We’re currently testing around 150 people a day but by the time the majority of students arrive on October 5, we will be looking to test around 300 staff and students daily.’

As well as providing vital data on the asymptomatic prevalence of the virus, Prof Galbraith believes the testing programme is crucial in creating a safe environment for staff and students.

He added: ‘The system is vital to ascertain where the virus might be. You may have a student who goes into the library who doesn’t know they have the virus and has potentially been in contact with other people in the library.

Student, Emily Gittings, waiting to have her test done at the mobile testing centre. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘We can identify a positive test and, through Track and Trace, contact others at risk.’

Students being tested were fully supportive of the initiative and believed it was vital in giving people the confidence to return to university safely.

Final year English Language student, Hannah Curtis, 22, said: ‘I think this is invaluable as it allows us to live as normal as possible.

The new mobile Covid testing facility for asymptomatic staff and students at the University of Portsmouth. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘Anxieties have been heightened for all students coming to university - particularly first years. I think the testing programme will give people confidence they’re safe.’

Fellow final year student, Ellie Ablett, 22, added: ‘There’s a lot of anxiety around the virus. We have a diverse student community with people travelling from around the country and abroad.

‘Hopefully this will also give confidence to the wider community in the city. The test was simple and pain free.’

University of Portsmouth vice-chancellor, Professor Graham Galbraith, believes the new testing facility will be crucial in controlling the spread of the virus. Picture: Habibur Rahman

The mobile testing centre, which is on a converted bus, carries out swab tests which are sent to laboratories at Queen Alexandra Hospital where results are returned within 24 hours.

NTL Biologica chairman, Ian Graney, said: ‘If you can identify people who have the virus or are at risk then it puts you in a very strong position to manage the virus.’

Mr Graney believes a similar mobile system could be crucial to ensure schools can remain open. It comes after headteachers hit out at the government over slow test results and poor availability.

Ian said: ‘We can go to schools and colleges and get tests turned round in 24 hours and so this is definitely something the government should look at.’

Students and staff can book a test at the Milldam Building car park via the university’s website. Members of the community with symptoms can book a test at the campus via the testing website.

Keep up to date with the latest coronavirus news in Portsmouth with our Coronavirus Updates Facebook group.

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