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DMU to pilot new national testing programme in fight against COVID-19


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Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, your health and wellbeing has always been our top priority. We’ve worked hard to make sure all the necessary measures are in place for you to be able to enjoy everything our campus has to offer in the safest way possible through Your DMU Safety.  

Today, we would like to let you know about a pilot initiative for a new national project taking place at DMU over the coming weeks, which we believe will directly support the fight against COVID-19 for our staff, students and society as a whole. 

Supporting the Government’s Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) the university will host an NHS Test and Trace facility on campus, giving staff and students an opportunity to engage and explore how effectively Lateral Flow antigen tests can be used at scale.   

If successful, it would allow for the rapid deployment of new testing technology, enabling regular testing in targeted locations, a clear step forward in the fight against COVID-19. 

What are Lateral Flow antigen tests?  

Lateral Flow antigen tests are a new kind of technology that could be used to test a higher proportion of asymptomatic people. This would better enable the Government to identify asymptomatic cases who are at high likelihood of spreading the virus, and break the chain of transmission. The first Lateral Flow antigen tests have completed initial validation and the Government is identifying how to best use this new technology at scale through a series of different field tests and pilots. The first such major pilot will be at DMU. 

Lateral Flow antigen tests detect the presence or absence of coronavirus by applying a swab or saliva sample to the device’s absorbent pad. The sample runs along the surface of the pad, showing a visual positive or negative result dependant on the presence of the virus. The tests have been validated by Public Health England. They are safe and offer reliable results.  

The pilot will be crucial in understanding the effectiveness of these tests. The new lateral flow test will be run alongside existing testing methods (PCR) and anyone who tests positive will still need to self-isolate in accordance with current guidance and to undertake a confirmatory test through the NHS. Staff and students must also continue to book a test with the NHS if they have symptoms.  

The DMU pilot 

The pilot will begin in the coming weeks with a small group of students who will be contacted separately and given the opportunity to volunteer and help shape the future of this technology. If you are one of the initial group of students selected, you will be contacted by your faculty. Over the following weeks, the testing will then be rolled out to include a wider population of DMU staff and students. Further details on testing will be available in due course via email and an area on the Your DMU Safety microsite so please look out for more information. 

The results of the DMU trial will be analysed carefully alongside other university and school trials to assess how Lateral Flow devices might be used to test large numbers of people who do not have symptoms, and how this might help to get the country back to normal.

Using Lateral Flow tests may enable us to identify infectious people who are asymptomatic, ensuring that they are aware and can prevent onwards infection. This could then minimise ongoing disruption for those who test negative, in turn supporting the economy and wider society to return to a more normal way of life.   

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, DMU has worked to support its staff, students and the community around it. Our volunteers have helped people across the city and our academic research has increased knowledge of the pandemic and informed at a national level about the long-term effects it could have.  

This pilot is an extension of this work and offers you a unique opportunity to be at the forefront of the national effort against COVID-19.  

Posted on Monday 19th October 2020

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