COVID tests for students in England are projected to be held on 30th November. A week of mass testing for students is proposed with the aim of preventing the spread of the virus as students return home.
But the University Union, which represents university lecturers, said it was not yet clear whether all universities would take part in the testing programme or how many students would be included.
What do students think?
Ziad Mohamed, 19, from the University of Kingston told Westminster World: “That physical interaction won’t be there. You feel like you’re stuck inside a room, and having too much time on your own can affect your mental health in such a bad way”.
Alexandra Davis, 20, from the University of Surrey agreed and told Westminster World: “It could deteriorate student’s already not great mental health, especially as it’s such a dark season to be isolated”.
Kitty Attwood, 19, from the University of Oxford also commented on the time period. “Christmas holidays are quite a long period of time, the time when you want to be with your family, it would be a bit different if it was another holiday,” she told Westminster World.
Whilst students stressed the detrimental effect staying could have, they also expressed the importance of government testing before returning. “The worst-case scenario would be that students go home untested with COVID, and then spread it to their families, causing the rate of infection to go up and elongating the whole epidemic,” Alexandra said. Kitty agreed and commented: “A lot of people have vulnerable family members so for them it would give them peace of mind and not put them in a difficult position…I think a lot of Uni’s would expect students to pay for a test otherwise which isn’t really fair.’’
Is a two week quarantine a good alternative?
According to the UniCovid UK, which tracks coronavirus in higher education, 114 universities have had cases so far this term, with tens of thousands of students and staff having to self-isolate. So, for many students the alternative idea of a two- quarantine doesn’t provide enough assurance.
Lizzie Child’s, 19, from the University of East Anglia told Westminster World: “The two-week quarantine is a good idea in theory but I don’t think it would get stuck to at all. Especially if it was just the government enforcing it…the University’s would need to be on board.”
Should students be allowed to return again?
Whilst it’s unclear whether mass testing will definitely go ahead and if so for whom, one thing is clear; if students are allowed home, they expect to be able to return again. “Universities have so much in place, and have predicted for large outbreaks, that I feel they are quite well equipped to deal with it, if they didn’t let us back it would seem quite unreasonable,” Kitty said.
“If I could go back for Christmas I 100% would, but I would also want to be able return to University after the holiday’s as I’m not ready for this experience to be put to an end,” Ziad commented.
It is evident that students are massively impacted by COVID. But, the real question is: if testing can’t be confirmed for everyone, are students safer in their halls where the risk of spreading it to families is completely eradicated, or should they still be allowed to go home?