Image Credit: Ian Wiggins
In order to prevent students travelling home from York with Covid, on 30 November 2020 the University opened a lateral flow Covid testing centre at the James College Sports Centre. Here, students were able to easily book a Covid test and get results back that same day. Nouse research via Freedom of Information requests has revealed the impressive numbers behind this centre.
In its first week alone, the testing centre carried out 5,800 tests, which is about a quarter of the entire student body of the University (estimated to be around 18,000). The centre closed once most students had left campus for Christmas, but it was reopened on 3 January 2021, and has remained open throughout this term. From 11 January, the control of the centre was transferred to the council, and has since been operated by them. In this move, the centre has widened its reach to the wider community in York.
Due to the fact that since 11 January the centre has been under the control of the council, Nouse only has access to the numbers for the period of time it was under the control of the University. Despite this, the numbers are still impressive; in the period between 30 November 2020 and 11 January 2021, the centre conducted 11,656 tests overall. Nouse also inquired as to how many of these tests came back positive. The University told us that only 31 tests out of the 11,656 came back with a positive result, with the other 11,593 tests coming back as negative. This is perhaps surprising given the narrative of high Covid levels at UK Universities throughout the 2020/21 academic year so far.
Contrary to our prior belief, the tests and PPE used at the centre are not paid for by the University, and are instead “provided free of charge” by the Department of Health and Social Care.
Additionally, the University cannot give an accurate number for how much the centre costs to be open per-day, due to the presence of too many varying factors. They did, however, tell us that no matter the cost, “the University will be reimbursed by the Department for Health for running an LFD site.” As such, the University tells us, there will not be “a significant net cost to the University for operating the testing centre.”
We contacted the University for their response on this news, asking how they feel the running of the site has gone and as to how important the opening of the testing centre has been for campus. Their representative told us:
"We are really pleased with how our students have engaged with regular testing, and we thank them - it's a really important Covid measure alongside social distancing, hand hygiene and mask use.
“As more and more students return to York, it's really important people continue to get tested twice a week. Even though the vaccination programme is proceeding well, most staff and the great majority of students - some of whom may have health vulnerabilities - will not have been vaccinated until later in the summer. Testing helps protect them.”