Huge operation to get Sheffield students tested and home for Christmas set to begin

Thousands of Sheffield students have signed up to get tested for coronavirus before they travel home for Christmas, as the major operation gets underway.

Friday, 27th November 2020, 3:50 pm

These photos show the huge Covid-19 testing facility which has been created in just two weeks at the University of Sheffield’s Octagon Centre.

The University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University are among the universites around the country which are participating in the Government scheme to get students tested before they head home for the festive season, to protect them, their families and the communities to which they are returning.

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The University of Sheffield's coronavirus testing centre features 44 testing bays (pic: University of Sheffield)

The University of Sheffield’s testing centre, which is due to open on Monday, November 30, features 44 testing bays and will be manned by a 300-strong workforce.

It will be open from 8.30am to 8.30pm seven days a week, with students asked to administer their own tests, following the step-by-step instructions provided, with trained supervisors processing the completed testing kits.

It will run at least until the end of the student travel window on December 9, but further testing could take place there after that.

Students will be asked to swab themselves, following step-by-step instructions (pic: University of Sheffield)

More than 2,500 appointments have already been made since booking opened on Tuesday, and there is capacity for more than 1,800 tests a day.

Keith Lilley, the university’s director of infrastructure, said: “The team first met on site on November 13 with just a sketch and some NHS specifications. The initial build was completed in five days and now we’re putting together the finishing touches ready for Monday.

"It’s a phenomenal team effort to achieve what we have in such a short space of time. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone involved – to the project group and to the many colleagues across the university.”

The University of Sheffield's Covid-19 testing centre will be manned by 300 staff (pic: University of Sheffield)

The Government is asking all universities to finish face-to-face teaching for the winter term by December 9.

Testing should also be completed by that date, enabling any students who test positive to complete their self-isolation at university before heading home for the holidays, while those who test negative are asked to return home as soon as possible.

The Government says mass testing will reduce the risk of students who are travelling home transmitting the virus to their family and home community.