Queen's rolls out Covid-19 asymptomatic testing programme for students

Queen's University is set to test significant numbers of asymptomatic staff and students for Covid-19 as part of a government-backed programme.

It's the first place in Northern Ireland to conduct testing on those who aren't displaying coronavirus symptoms on a large scale.

Students are being invited to book in for a test from Monday 23 November at the campus' Whitla Hall.

Results can be provided in just one hour.

It's hoped the programme will help support many students who wish to return home for Christmas.

Health Minister Robin Swann said New Testing Interventions, or NTIs, will help us understand how asymptomatic testing can be implemented and extended more widely in the future.

He said: “Providing support to students and their families in the coming weeks is also a very welcome aspect of this NTI.

We must be clear testing on its own is not a panacea to delivering a ‘normal’ festive period.  

Robin Swann MLA, Health Minister

Mr Swann added: “Everyone must continue to adhere to the current restrictions and public health requirements. We must continue to drive down infection rates and ensure that we enter the festive period with as few new cases every day as possible."

The hope is for the programme to eventually conduct 6,000 tests per week, with capacity being scaled up in the first few weeks.

President and Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Ian Greer said: "We hope that the programme will help the health authorities to develop the best approach to mass testing, whilst at the same time helping us to drive down instances of the virus in our campus community and keeping it safe for our staff and students.”

All students are being invited to participate in the programme from this week, with those intending to return home for Christmas particularly encouraged to arrange tests.

The University plans to continue providing asymptomatic testing next semester, to help inform wider roll-out plans.

There is already a testing centre for those with symptoms on campus, at the Stranmillis Embankment.