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COVID Restrictions and Tests- What Students Need to Know Now

With the end of national lockdown in sight, England will return to its three-tiered system just after midnight on Wednesday 2 December. On Monday, after chairing a COBRA committee meeting, the Prime Minister announced the new tiers that will divide the country’s regions based on five indicators:

  • case detection rates in all age groups 
  • case detection rates in the over-60s
  • the rate at which cases are rising or falling
  • positivity rate (the number of positive cases detected as a percentage of tests taken)
  • pressure on the NHS, including current and projected occupancy

Even though the vast majority of England will be placed in tier 2 and tier 3, it has been made clear that this will not be a full lockdown as we have previously experienced in March and in November. Places of worship, schools, colleges, universities, and nurseries are to remain open. For those who cannot work from home, workplaces are also permitted to remain open. Childcarers and nannies can continue to provide childcare, including in homes. The tiers will be reviewed every 14 days beginning the week of 16 December.  

Tier 1: Medium

Areas in this tier will experience the lowest and most relaxed restrictions compared to the rest of the country:

  1. The rule of six will apply indoors as well as outdoors.
  2. Spectator sports can resume with a crowd of 50% capacity, or 4,000 spectators, whichever is the smallest.

Tier 2: High

In this tier, you are not allowed to socialise indoors with anyone you do not live with or is in your support bubble.

  • You can meet in a group of six outside.
  • Pubs and bars can only remain open if they serve substantial meals. Alcohol is only allowed to be served with a meal.
  • Pubs and restaurants must stop taking orders by 22:00 and shut at 23:00 to stagger departure times of customers.
  • Gyms, shops, and personal care services are permitted to reopen on the condition that they are Covid secure.
  • Sports can resume with up to 2,000 spectators, or 50% capacity, whichever is smaller.
  • Places of worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume with restrictions.
  • Non-essential foreign travel is permitted but subject to quarantine restrictions.
  • It is strongly advised to not travel to and from tier three areas.

Tier 3: Very High

Like the previous tier, additional restrictions apply:

  • Socialising with anyone not in your household or support bubble indoors and outdoors is not allowed in private gardens and pubs.
  • You can socialise in a group of six in outdoor spaces such as parks, beaches, or the countryside.
  • Shops, gyms, and personal care services can reopen if they are Covid secure.
  • Hospitality venues – such as bars, pubs, cafes, and restaurants are only permitted open if delivery and takeaway services are offered.
  • Spectator sports cannot resume.
  • Indoor entertainment venues must stay closed.
  • People are advised not to travel to and from tier three areas.

For a full list of local restriction tiers by area, click here.

For a detailed list of tier restrictions, click here.

An exodus plan of departure for university students has been put in place to allocate staggered travel times to avoid a mass spread of Covid-19. This plan involves a travel window between 3 December and 9 December. Students will be offered rapid test results to make an informed decision in their travel plans and Universities in England will be moving all teaching to online from 9 December. 

Universities minister Michelle Donelan explained that the government chose the week after the four-week national lockdown in England because “students will pose a much-reduced risk to their loved ones and their community”.

The plan was designed so that anyone who has contracted symptoms will have enough time to isolate themselves and be able to travel home in time for Christmas. Thus, reducing the chance of bringing the virus home and accelerating the spread. Although it is not a requirement to travel during this window and have a negative test, it is strongly advised to do so. 

To manage the mass movement, The Department for Education announced that universities in England would now start working with their local public health teams and local transport operators.

UK coach operator National Express said it was talking to universities about adding on extra services to help students get home.

The government aims to facilitate as much testing as possible but will target universities in areas with higher infection rates and proportions of vulnerable students. The distribution is set to begin at the end of November.

 You can travel whenever it is the most convenient for you, but if you can travel within the travel window, you are encouraged to do so.

Any student who tests positive will be required to self-isolate for ten days under current guidelines.

It is recommended that you get tested if you are experiencing the following key symptoms:

· A loss in taste or smell

· A new continuous cough

· A high temperature (fever)

If you are infected, you can order a test by going online at gov.uk or call 119. You can book for drive-through and walk-through testing sites or a mobile testing unit. Alternatively, you can order a home testing kit within the first four days of experiencing symptoms which are expected to arrive the following day.

Home test kit

1. Once you have received the kit, wipe the swab around the back of your throat and then insert the same swab about 2.5cm up one nostril and rotate. 

2. Seal swab in the plastic envelope provided and post with your details in the prepared packet. 

3. Lab results can take 24 – 48hrs.

4. Results are sent via text or email.

If the result is:

Positive: You must self-isolate.

Negative: There is no detectable trace of the virus.

Unclear: Get another test.

On behalf of the government, UWE will be providing free asymptomatic tests. Testing will take place at the Centre for Sport in the Sports Hall on Frenchay Campus. This test is not suitable for those who are already experiencing symptoms or are self-isolating. Instead, this test is ideal for those who might not have symptoms but could be carrying the virus and unknowingly spreading it to others. 

The test offered is known as the Lateral Flow Test (LTR). It detects the coronavirus antigen produced when a person is infectious with the coronavirus. These typically produce a result within 30 minutes and do not require a laboratory to be processed.

It is essential to know that this is not the same as the NHS Covid test for individuals who already have symptoms. These tests are currently more commonly used in the NHS for symptomatic. They require a laboratory to be processed.

If you test positive for coronavirus using a Lateral Flow Antigen Test, you’ll need to contact the NHS to book a free PCR test to confirm your test result.

Although testing is not compulsory to travel within the UK, it is a student’s responsibility to get tested if they plan to travel internationally as well as complying with other Covid requirements for international travel. It is unlikely that the LTR test will fulfil the conditions that some countries have to enter. Therefore, you will need a PCR test which is only offered by the NHS.

It is encouraged to take two LTR tests to rule out a false test result and to be confident that you will not be carrying the virus home with you if you do not have symptoms.

If you test negative on both of your tests, it is recommended that you travel within 24hrs of your second test. If you test positive, you must self-isolate immediately and tell the university either by reporting it online using Infohub or by calling the Covid Support Team on tel: +44(0)117 32 87000. The phone number is open from 09:00 to 19:00 every day.

You do not need to self-isolate between test on the condition that the first test is negative.

The asymptomatic testing facility is only available from 30 November to 6 December. Each appointment is 15 minutes long, and the facility will be open from 9:00 to 21:00 each day with the last appointment being at 20:45. Do not go for a test if you have symptoms or are self-isolating. If you would like to book an appointment, use the link below.

Book an appointment Remember, even if you test positive, you will have plenty of time to self-isolate and travel home in time for Christmas. Wear a mask, stay safe and let’s all do our part to protect the NHS.

Keira Brown is a Second Year Creative and Professional Writing Student

Featured Image from Pixabay

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