The on-campus Covid-19 testing centre in Trinity, the only free university testing centre in Ireland, has commenced operation on September 28.
The service is being conducted alongside a pilot programme involving voluntary, periodical self-reporting of symptoms that is available for students and faculty living on campus or in Trinity Hall (Halls).
The campus Covid-19 testing centre will offer tests on a case-by-case basis through which a person reporting symptoms will be referred to receive a test. This is the same system used elsewhere in Ireland; if a general practitioner determines that a person needs a test because of symptoms in line with Covid-19, he or she will be eligible for a test to be administered on campus.
As a collaboration between Trinity and the Health Service Executive (HSE), the HSE will provide all testing kits and personal protective equipment and will process all lab work and contact tracing. Trinity will supply a testing room as well as two nurses and one administrative assistant.
After processing test results, the HSE will carry out necessary Contact Tracing for possible affected individuals.
Speaking to Trinity News, a College spokesperson stated: “This information will be critical in identifying potential local clusters and allow actions to be taken locally in response to new cases.”
Details on the pilot self-reporting programme are still under development, but once ethics approval has been granted for the proposal, College intends to begin the programme as soon as possible after September 28.
The pilot is not to be confused with a testing service for symptomatic people, and instead will be used in order to “understand the true level of infection among the student population”.
Tests for the pilot screening programme are to be conducted once per week on a designated day. After completing a consent form, participants are to self-collect a saliva sample to be delivered to one of several drop-off depots in the vicinity of College residences.
Then, these samples will be tested for traces of the SARS-COV-2 virus in an attempt to determine the patterns of transmission among university students.
Speaking to Trinity News, College stated that the tests will provide several useful points of information, including the ability to “make decisions about how to control the spread of the infection and how to make College a safer environment” and to “help us understand if other factors contribute to infection acquisition and help us understand why some students become infected while others do not”.
If a member of the pilot sample wishes to opt out after prior involvement, he or she need only not to complete a consent form or provide a sample. Members of the study would not be personally identified if the results were to be published.
Eventually, the overall results of the study may be publicized or published in a scientific journal. Additionally, the results will be periodically shared with the College Health Service in order to help with making decisions about controlling the virus and maintaining a safe environment in College.
Regardless of potential test results, students who are participating in the programme and begin experiencing symptoms suggestive of Covid-19 are urged to contact the College Health Service or their own GP for an additional Covid-19 test.
Participants are reminded that the voluntary, non-invasive testing programme is not synonymous with a Covid-19 test administered by a health professional. Furthermore, the test is not to be “taken as any replacement for responsible behaviour, social distancing, frequent hand-washing, cough etiquette and face coverings”.
In addition to an email introducing these two opportunities which was received by students several weeks ago, College plans to unveil further information through social media posts and information leaflets as the programmes move into operation.