The Christmas Travel Test: How will it work?

Image description: Gloved hands holding a lateral flow test.

From Monday, every student at Oxford University that plans on going home during the student travel window will be able to access two lateral flow tests: one to be taken three days prior to leaving the city, and another as close as possible to the student’s departure time. Students are to return home only upon receiving two negative results, which they should log with the Early Alert Service manually.

The two tests are necessary because while lateral flow tests can be more rapidly conducted, they are less sensitive than the PCR tests used by the NHS. If students test positive in the first instance, then they are to book an in-person test through the University’s Early Alert Service and self-isolate until receiving their result.

Self-tests can be booked and ordered from the University’s Early Alert Service website, and students will have to complete a short course and quiz on how to use lateral flow tests effectively. The University will also provide lateral flow tests for students who cannot return home during the travel window if there is the capacity to do so. Students who test positive will be required to self-isolate for ten days in their term-time accommodation.

Those with a household member who has tested positive, but are themselves negative, can travel home to complete a two-week period of self-isolation if they choose – but only if they can travel between the 3rd and 9th of December. If one member of a household tests positive after the 9th of December, then the entire household will have to self-isolate in Oxford instead of going home to do so. Both the University and the SU have strongly encouraged students to return home during this window to avoid isolation over the Christmas period.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor Martin Williams has said that “Oxford University’s end of term testing programme is an unprecedented and concerted effort across the University and colleges to help ensure students protect their families and friends.”

“It’s an important part of our arrangements for the end of term, which we are confident will allow students to leave Oxford in a safe and orderly way to spend time at home.”

Oxford SU has since been encouraging students to get tested before returning home for Christmas, and will lobby the university to bring in an asymptomatic testing strategy for next term, now that rapid-result tests are due to be widely available.

The latest government advice sees students advised to travel privately and not to car share with anyone outside of their household or support bubble. In cases where such travel is not possible, students are being encouraged to pre-book public transport and avoid busier times and routes in accordance with the ‘safer travel guidance for passengers’.