Ministers are stopping supplies of Covid-19 testing kits to universities in England, The Guardian has reported. Universities were advised that students and staff on campus should take lateral flow tests (LFTs) twice a week. But the contract to supply the kits will allegedly be terminated on Friday 18th February.
Higher education leaders were informed of this decision on Wednesday 16th February, according to The Guardian. However a government spokesperson claimed that ‘no decisions’ have been made on the provision of free testing.
They said: ‘Everyone can continue to get free tests, including students and staff who can order from the government website or their local pharmacy.’
Chief executive of Universities UK Alistair Jarvis said that ‘the ending of the legal agreement which allows universities to hand out lateral flow testing kits to students and staff ahead of the confirmation that all remaining Covid restrictions in England is hard to understand.’
Jarvis asked the government for ‘urgent clarification’ that universities can continue to distribute test kits from the supplies they have on campus, rather than let them go to waste.
Meanwhile, Jo Grady, the general secretary of the University and College Union, dubbed this last-minute change with testing kits as ‘completely irresponsible,’ and accused the government of ‘playing fast and loose’ with the safety of students and staff on campus.
Grady said: ‘Ministers must explain how employers are supposed to ensure campuses remain safe when testing is a key health and safety control measure. They must also commit to not abandoning free PCR testing for symptomatic cases. University staff and students need these reassurances urgently.’
Boris Johnson has announced that all Covid regulations, including the requirement to isolate after testing positive, are set to be abolished in England on Monday 21st February.
What do students think?
One student, who has chosen to remain anonymous, told Freshered: ‘I understand the need to move away from strict Covid-19 procedures. But I think that limiting the availability of free lateral flow tests is not a good idea. Even though the rules are much more relaxed, and most people I know are living their lives as they were pre-pandemic, we all still rely on lateral flow tests to help us be aware of if we have Covid-19 and thus protect vulnerable people.
‘For example, I rely on lateral flow tests whenever I go home from university so that I know I won’t be endangering my elderly family members.’
Another student said: ‘I think it’s good that the Covid restrictions are pretty much being abandoned, especially with isolation. It’s got to a point now where we’ve lived our lives for two years almost having to be stuck inside four walls. Obviously it makes sense if you’re properly ill but we can’t live our lives in fear anymore.’
They also explained that the decision to limit the amount of lateral flows is ‘ridiculous,’ in their opinion, as they allow people to know whether or not they have Covid and thus make the decision to stay away from sick or vulnerable friends and family.
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