Councillor uneasy at low number of Sheffield university students having Covid tests

A Sheffield councillor is concerned that only a low number of university students were given rapid Covid tests before returning home.

Friday, 18th December 2020, 12:30 pm

Sheffield Hallam University tested nearly 3,000 students over a fortnight but Coun Ben Miskell says this seems low, out of a total of more than 30,000 students.

In a letter to the university, Coun Miskell said: “Nearly 3,000 students were given lateral flow tests between November 30 and December 14 and your site has a capacity to test 1,000 students per day.

“Worryingly, this seems to suggest that only just over 200 students per day were tested.

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A man, wearing a face covering, walks past The University of Sheffield's Firth Court. Picture used for illustrative purposes only. PA Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
A man, wearing a face covering, walks past The University of Sheffield's Firth Court. Picture used for illustrative purposes only. PA Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

“Public data on student enrolment suggests that Sheffield Hallam has over 30,000 students. Even adjusting for students who were working remotely away from Sheffield prior to testing commencing, reduced international students and South Yorkshire based home students, it still seems to be a remarkably low figure.

“It would represent less than 10 percent of the student population, which is staggering for such a high profile programme.”

Vice-chancellor Professor Sir Chris Husbands said the university had worked closely with public health on the asymptomatic testing programme and tests for students were voluntary not mandatory.

Replying to Coun Miskell, he said: “All Sheffield Hallam students who requested a test at our asymptomatic testing site were able to book one through the service.

“Those students commuting to the university or planning to stay in Sheffield over Christmas were not encouraged to take part in the programme.

“Sheffield Hallam has a particularly high number of commuter students based in South Yorkshire – around 50 per cent of our total student population.

“Our testing site operated at around 35 per cent capacity during the period before the national student travel window.

“The site will be able to conduct the necessary number of tests when students make a staggered return in January, so that all students who request a test will be able to have one.”

Prof Husbands added that it had been “a remarkable achievement” to successfully set up a testing site from scratch in a short space of time.

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