Universities May Need to Test Every Three Days to Prevent Covid-19 Outbreaks
Researchers at 9 Universities modelled Covid-19 transmission, finding twice-weekly testing may not prevent the spread
As more transmissible variants of the Covid-19 virus emerge, researchers have challenged the UK Government’s recommendation that staff and students be tested twice a week when they return to campus from this week. Their research findings suggest that it will be more effective to test three times per week in order to prevent major outbreaks.
Commenting on the process of asymptomatic testing, the BMJ article states, “The emergence of more transmissible new variants results in impaired effectiveness of mass asymptomatic testing. While asymptomatic testing programs likely did help to prevent large outbreaks in university settings in autumn 2020, extremely frequent testing (every three days) would be needed to prevent a major outbreak under plausible parameters for the currently dominant variant in the UK.”
The report also confirmed that adhering to the strategy of “test and self-isolate” was the most effective way to prevent the spread of the virus on campus. This generates a large volume of population data, and the challenge for universities – and schools – will be to record and effectively manage those registered.
Reassuringly, the findings revealed that evidence of outbreaks in universities spreading to the wider community was limited. The previous outbreaks analysed also showed that they were consistent with the arrival of students from their home locations.
Secure data management will become increasingly necessary as the UK emerges from lockdown, made more complex with vaccine records. Incorporating health monitoring tools into universities’ Covid-19 management strategy provides a route to more safely bringing students back to campus. Built-in test and vaccine recording helps university staff to identify and support those students who need to self-isolate.