Participation in Lateral Flow Test pilot

We are to take part in a pilot of a new Covid-19 testing technology. Read on for more details.

The Lateral Flow Test (LFT) involves one of a number new testing technologies for the Covid-19 virus currently being piloted across the UK, with the aim of identifying those most at risk of spreading Covid-19 (those who are infectious, but not aware of this) and enabling them to alter their behaviour accordingly, thereby breaking the chains of transmission and reducing the infection rate.

The test aims to identify whether an individual has sufficient viral load, high enough levels of Covid-19 in their body, to make them infectious to others (although they may appear asymptomatic).

The initiative is being developed by the University in partnership with the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), the University of Oxford (UoO) and Public Health England (PHE).

How we’re involved…

The technology has already been validated – clinical testing phases are all complete. The next phase of the pilot, involving Durham University, is aimed at developing understanding of where to best use this technology and how it could be operationalised. Durham University is contributing academic expertise and, as the pilot begins, on-the-ground experience to the development of these key resources.

Staff and students will receive training in how to take the test, process the test and read the result. The test involves applying a swab to the throat and nose. The sample is processed by the user, on-site, and the results are available in 20 to 30 minutes. The test should only be taken following training.

The University is working closely with Durham County Council and other local partners to ensure that the Durham pilot is run in the best interests of its staff, students and the local community and assists the effort to limit and reduce the spread of Covid-19 in County Durham and North East England.

Initially, all students ‘living in’ at two of the University’s 17 Colleges*, Van Mildert College and Stephenson College, plus all staff working at those two Colleges, will be offered the opportunity to participate in the LFT pilot. This will commence in the week beginning Monday 26 October.

Case numbers at Van Mildert and Stephenson Colleges have been rising and it is hoped that the LFT pilot will assist in reducing the spread of Covid-19, so that the University can better enable students to access the best possible education and wider student experience. This will also enhance staff safety. Also, the two Colleges have different profiles – catered/self-catered, different household formats – allowing further understanding of the protocols of applying the test.

The test currently more commonly used in the NHS is the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test. All positive LFTs in the pilot will require a confirmatory PCR test in accordance with current public health guidance. These are readily available.

Participation is entirely voluntary, on an “opt in” basis, and individuals may withdraw from the pilot at any point.

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