Planned walk-through coronavirus testing centres near universities have yet to open despite thousands of students and staff returning to campuses in the coming days.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said 22 easily accessible sites would be set up. She made the announcement after Scotland’s testing system was overwhelmed when schools went back.
Ms Freeman said: “They can be operational in a matter of days, and we are working at pace…to roll out more across the country.”
The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said last week locations that support student populations would be prioritised. But only one walk-through testing centre – in St Andrews – has opened, with a second site at Glasgow Caledonian University still in the planning and 20 others not yet open.
There are more than 250,000 university students in Scotland and many will begin arriving at campuses this week, including at least 30,000 from overseas. There are also 50,000 staff returning. A robust testing regime is one of the University and College Union’s five demands for a safe return to on-campus working, but the union is concerned that only one walk-through site is up and running.
Mary Senior, UCU’s Scotland official, said: “It’s imperative that they’re up and operational right now, given many students are already arriving at universities across Scotland.”
Matt Crilly, president of the National Union of Students Scotland, said: “Walk-through testing sites are vital to ensuring that students with symptoms can be tested safely and quickly.”
Linda Bauld, professor of public health at Edinburgh University, said: “The United States opened universities in August and it did not go well. Several universities opened for a week or two and then had to close again because of large outbreaks. Scotland’s walk-through testing centres should be up and running, to prevent this happening here.”
The Scottish Government said: “Work is ongoing between the NHS, local authorities, the Scottish Government and the UK Government to establish additional sites.”
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