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COVID-19 FAQ: Rapid non-symptomatic COVID-19 testing

A new on-campus COVID-19 testing service will run from Tuesday 1 December until Friday 11 December in the Sports Hall on Whiteknights campus for those not displaying symptoms.

The testing service will operate:

  • 10am to 6pm Monday to Friday
  • 11am to 4pm on Saturday.

We are launching this service, following the government's announcement of plans to help students travel safely in the pre-Christmas ‘student travel window' from 3 to 9 December, to provide extra reassurance to our community ahead of the Christmas break.

Please note: if you are already showing any of the main symptoms of COVID-19 - a high temperature, new continuous cough or a loss/change of your sense of taste or smell, you should book a PCR test through the national NHS testing system and let your line manager know. Please do not visit the testing centre at the Sports Hall.

Students can find information dedicated to them on Essentials.

Colleagues and students can also contact our COVID-19 support line on 0118 214 7813 from 9am to 5pm on weekdays and 11am to 4pm at weekends.

Who is eligible for a test?

The centre will be open for all students (including PGR and placement students). Testing is also open to some staff:

  • You must a current University of Reading staff member
  • You must not be displaying any of the main symptoms of COVID-19 (a high temperature, a new continuous cough, or a loss/change to you sense of taste/smell)
  • You must have been working on campus within the last 14 days prior to your test
  • You must have read and understood the privacy information
  • You must consent to participation in the test programme.

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When does the rapid testing service open?

  • Testing opens for student on Tuesday 1 December: In order to support the government's request for students to travel in the 3 to 9 December window, bookings will initially be prioritised for students only from Tuesday 1 December to Saturday 5 December.
  • Testing for colleagues opens on Monday 7 December: Appointments for staff will be available from Monday 7 December.

The centre will operate until 6pm on Friday 11 December.

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How do I book?

Booking is through our online booking system for:

  • a staff rapid test for colleagues who do not have any accessibility requirements
  • a student rapid test for students who do not have any accessibility requirements
  • an accessible or supported test for those who may need extra assistance or space to take a test, or who need to request adjustments because of a disability.

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I/my students already have symptoms of COVID-19. Can I/they take a rapid test?

The rapid Lateral Flow Test we are offering is available to those not displaying symptoms. If you are already showing any of the main symptoms of COVID-19 - a high temperature, new continuous cough or a loss/change of your sense of taste or smell - you should book a PCR test through the national NHS testing system and let your line manager know. You must not visit the test centre in the Sports Hall if you have symptoms.

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What type of test are you offering?

We will be using the Lateral Flow Test (LFT) provided by the government. This is different from the PCR  test offered in national NHS testing centres.

Free PCR testing through the NHS system is only available to those displaying symptoms. The free LFT testing we are offering will be available to those not displaying symptoms to provide reassurance that you are not carrying the virus. This is particularly important if you/students plan to travel home for the Christmas break, so that you/students have some reassurance that you/students will not transmit the virus to loved ones.

If you are already showing any of the main symptoms of COVID-19 - a high temperature, new continuous cough or a loss/change of your sense of taste or smell - you should book your test through the national NHS testing system and let your line manager know so we can support you.

If you are planning on travelling internationally, some airlines and countries require evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result. Please be aware that the LFT test may not be sufficient for this purpose. For further advice please see  the section I'm intending to travel internationally and need a test and my airline or destination country requires evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result. What should I do?

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What can I expect when I get tested?

The Lateral Flow Test that the government is providing to universities is quick and easy to administer, with the whole process taking no more than 20 to 30 minutes. You will also get results quickly, usually within 20 to 30 minutes, delivered by text message or email.

Just follow these five simple steps. 

Step 1 - Prepare for your appointment. You must bring: 

  • your staff card
  • a face covering (worn prior to entering the Sports Hall)
  • a mobile phone (you will need to scan a QR code to register)
  • your GPs details if you have them (name of the practice is sufficient - eg University Medical Centre)
  • hand sanitiser if you have some.

You should not have to queue for long, but remember to dress warmly just in case. 

Step 2 - Arrive at the Sports Hall. When you book, you will select a time slot for your test. Please arrive 10 minutes before your booking time and follow all signs and one-way systems directing you to the testing centre, while observing social distancing. 

Step 3 - Register by scanning a QR code using your mobile phone. If you do not have a phone that can scan a QR code, an alternative means of registering will be provided. You will be given a test kit and someone will direct you to a testing booth. 

Step 4 - Take your test. In the booth, you will use the test kit to take your own swab sample. There will be a testing centre staff member there to provide advice and guidance. This short NHS video explains the swabbing process.

Step 5 - Leave your test kit for processing. You do not have to wait for you test result and you can leave as soon as you have handed over your test kit. You will receive your result by text message or email, as you selected when registering, typically in less than half an hour. 

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If you test positive:

  • You will need to self-isolate and let your line manager know for support.
  • It is also strongly recommended that you take adifferent kind of test called a PCR test through the main NHS testing system to confirm the positive result.

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I'm intending to travel internationally and need a test and my airline or destination country requires evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result. What should I do?

The type of Lateral Flow Test that the government is supplying to universities may not be sufficient for this purpose. You should check the travel requirements for your airline and destination as soon as possible to make sure that a Lateral Flow Test result is acceptable, as many require a result from a different type of test, called a PCR test.

PCR tests are available for free through the NHS if you have COVID-19 symptoms. If you do not have COVID-19 symptoms, you need to pay to get a PCR test privately. Please ask your pharmacist or doctor for advice.

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What happens if I don't receive an email or text message with my result after taking a Lateral Flow Test?

You will receive your result by text message or email, as you selected when registering, typically 30 to 60 minutes after taking the test. If you don't receive your result, please contact the NHS Test & Trace Enquiries Service by calling 119 (from 8am to 8pm).

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Who is going to be operating the testing service?

Our testing centre is being managed ‘in-house' and will be led by experienced University colleagues, supported by colleagues from across the University and students employed through Campus Jobs.

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What are the financial implications of offering testing?

Given the financial challenges the University faces, a number of colleagues have quite rightly raised questions about the costs that we are incurring in response to COVID-19 and the availability of financial support from government. As Vice-Chancellor, Professor Robert Van de Noort, has explained in our all staff briefings, while government subsidisation is not available for much of our response, including the COVID-19 Case Management Team, we are determined that we must do the right thing for the safety and wellbeing of our community even if that does incur a cost.

Testing is the right thing to do and we would do it regardless, but  the government will be reimbursing universities for the costs of administering testing up to a fixed limit. Notably, this limit would not cover full end-to-end delivery of the testing process by an external provider, from planning and establishment of a testing facility through to administration of the centre and undertaking of testing. To keep our costs as close to the government cap as possible and to minimise the financial implications for the University, we are managing as much of this process as possible ‘in-house'.

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