An asymptomatic testing site (ATS) of  lateral flow tests is launching at the University of Birmingham, as part of the Government’s UK-wide continuing drive to increase the availability of mass testing.

  • Partnership between the University of Birmingham and NHS Test and Trace, to work towards returning life to as normally as possible.
  • Testing of students to begin on 2 December.

The University is working with NHS Test & Trace to set up an on-campus ATS so that students without symptoms, who may be infectious but unaware, are able to get tested and asked to self-isolate if they are, or reassured quickly if they are not.

From 2 December testing will be available for all students. Testing will be held in the Great Hall in the Aston Webb Building until 9 December. For more information visit the website.

From the start of the pandemic, the Government has been working around the clock with a range of partners to fight coronavirus. The testing site at the University of Birmingham is being delivered by Professor Alan McNally from the University’s Institute of Microbiology and Infection and with his team of researchers will offer self-swab tests. 

Lateral flow devices do not require a laboratory to process the test. Processing of these tests can be conducted at a dedicated testing site by trained personnel and can rapidly turn around results within an hour.

Use of lateral flow tests could significantly improve the detection of positive cases, so people can isolate themselves and prevent the spread of the disease. Asymptomatic testing will help to protect those at high risk, find the virus and help enable us to go back to as normal a way of life as possible. 

Anyone testing positive for the virus in England will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace to help them track their contacts. This will help people to identify who they may have been in close contact with, protecting others from further transmission. Close contacts of those testing positive will also hear from NHS Test and Trace, asking them to stay at home for 14 days to prevent them from unknowingly spreading the virus.

Anyone with symptoms should follow the guidance online on how to book a PCR test or call 119. Lines are open 07:00 to 23:00.

The government is working closely with universities to get asymptomatic university students tested during the first week of December in order to help students return home safely for Christmas. 

Testing will help to break chain of transmission amongst students especially when they are infected but are not aware of it and help to ensure the safety of their loved ones at home.

Students will be encouraged to get tested during the first week of December using Lateral Flow Devices. If they receive a negative test, they are advised to return home immediately. Should a student test positive they will then need to book a confirmatory PCR and have to self-isolate for 10 days, still with enough time to return home for Christmas.

Before travelling home students are advised to: book travel in advance, avoid busy times and routes and check their journey in advance to avoid disruptions. If driving only travel with members of your household or support bubble, and follow safer travel advice (link) safety guidelines. On public transport it is important that travellers wear a face covering unless exempt, wash or sanitise hands regularly, use contactless payment and keep 2m distance where possible.

All students are urged to get tested if it is available at their university to help protect themselves and their friends, families and home communities as safe as possible when returning home this Christmas.

Health Minister Lord Bethell said:

“We’ve already come so far since first setting up a national testing programme at an unprecedented pace to help counter COVID-19, but we continue to strive to go further, faster.

“Innovations such as lateral flow technology hold the key to the next phase of our ambition to see mass, rapid testing available to people across the country. 

“I’m delighted that universities are working with us to use lateral flow technology, and I look forward to seeing the fruits of their labour, in helping students return home for Christmas and to return to a normal way of life as soon as possible.”

Baroness Dido Harding, Interim Executive Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, said:

“NHS Test and Trace continues to play a leading role in the fight against COVID-19 with over 32 million tests processed so far. 

“The work of the University of Birmingham will be essential in helping us explore the benefits of new technology in lateral flow testing. 

“This ATS is one of many which will lay the foundations for the next phase of NHS Test and Trace – mass testing - which will allow us to test even more people, even more quickly.”

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said:

“We are committed to get students back to their loved ones for the Christmas holidays as safely as possible, after this challenging year.

“Our plans already minimise the risk of students moving at the end of term, through staggered departure dates in the ‘student travel window’. But testing will offer further assurances that students can keep their families safe this winter, and I urge all students who can to take the tests on offer.”

University of Birmingham site lead Professor Alan McNally said: “Having been at the forefront of COVID testing throughout the pandemic, we felt it was important we engaged with this government initiative to test our student population using new rapid point-of-care tests. Our experience in setting up large scale Lighthouse labs and running our own pillar 2 PCR testing lab means we are expertly placed to deliver a safe, competent and efficient roll out of asymptomatic testing to our very large student community. By doing this we hope we can offer them some comfort in being able to return home as safely as possible in what has been a difficult year.”

 For media enquiries about the mass testing programme please contact Press Office News Desk. For enquiries about the University of Birmingham please contact Interim Deputy Director of Communications Sally Brooks.