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    Under 20% of students living on site for Trinity Term estimated to have used University’s Asymptomatic Testing Sites

    Estelle Atkinson reports on Cherwell's investigation into how many people used the University's asymptomatic testing sites during Trinity Term.

    Over Trinity Term, any students living in Oxford were encouraged to make use of the University’s new asymptomatic testing sites located around the city on a regular basis. However, an investigation by Cherwell reveals that less than 20% of students in Oxford utilised this program. 

    In the Official Student News Email sent out in Week 0 of Trinity Term, the University introduced its symptom-free testing program: “If you’re returning to Oxford this term, you are expected to get tested for COVID-19 before you travel back to Oxford, and then regularly when you return. Your college will provide you with two Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests to take yourself at the start of term. After these initial tests, you should then get tested twice a week every week via the new symptom-free testing centres. The centres are in easy-to-access sites around Oxford, and they will follow strict safety measures.”

    Students returning to Oxford were encouraged to get tested twice a week, every week. 

    The University estimated that as of June 1st, the number of students on site totalled 21,203, comprising 10,108 postgraduate students and 11,095 undergraduate students. Of these students, 4,149 used the symptom-free testing programme. This shows that less than 20% of on site students are reported to have used the programme . 

    Of the undergraduate students on site, 2,607 are reported to have used the program, which is roughly 23.5% of the undergraduate population. The postgraduate students on site tested at a lower rate of roughly 15.3%, with only 1,542 students using the testing sites. 2,066 members of staff are reported to have used the programme, although there is no record of how many staff were estimated to be working on site during Trinity Term. 

    In terms of those who tested with the program regularly, the University holds only a record of students and staff who completed two or more asymptomatic tests in either the week commencing 23 May (Week 5) and/or the week commencing 30 May (Week 6). These consisted of 338 undergraduates, 270 postgraduates, and 451 members of staff. However, these figures may not accurately represent the number of students and staff testing regularly throughout the term, since students may have taken lateral flow tests outside of the programme and have failed to report the result. 

    Week 1 saw the most lateral flow tests booked at 1,428, while Week 5 saw the most lateral flow tests actually issued at 9,764. A total of 7,035 lateral flow tests were booked over Trinity Term through the University asymptomatic testing program, while a larger total of 24,968 were issued.

    The University disclaimed that “ tests for Covid-19 may be obtained from sources other than the University, and therefore the numbers given … may not represent a comprehensive picture of tests completed by students and staff.” 

    In the Student News Update from Week 4, the University announced the availability of ‘LFD Collect’ tests: “there will be a new way of obtaining Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests at Oxford. ‘LFD Collect’ will give you the chance to pick up pre-packed LFD test kits to use at home or in college. You can then choose to make use of LFD Collect, go to the University’s symptom-free testing centres, or get your tests via other Government routes. You must ensure you report your results both to the University and the NHS. You don’t need to do this if you use the University’s symptom-free testing centres, which remain open in easy-to-access locations around the city to help make testing a regular part of your weekly routine.”

    The University stated that “the health, safety and wellbeing of our staff, students and the wider community continues to be our highest priority in the 2020/21 academic year. We continue to provide a range of testing services and encourage staff and students across the Collegiate University to engage in testing.”

    Image: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

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