This morning, Simon Harris has urged Irish universities to sign up for a pilot antigen testing project to get students back on campus in September.
Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris urges students across four universities to sign up to a Covid-19 pilot antigen project called UniCoV that was unveiled last month.
The study launched June 14 and is open to 8,000 staff and students across Trinity, National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG), University College Cork (UCC), and University College Dublin (UCD).
In a press release today, Harris stated that he believes rapid testing “may potentially be an important element” of government’s plan for a safe return to on-site teaching, research and study in September.
“This pilot project will help us learn more about different types of tests, how effective they are and if they can or should be used in higher education settings,” he explained.
While the study is “optional”, Harris urged staff and students to participate and “help us with our plans for a safe and sustainable re-opening of campuses and society”.
The UniCoV project is headed by the Director of Public Health of Health Service Executive (HSE) West and NUIG Professor, Breda Smyth.
Student and staff volunteers are required to provide saliva samples twice weekly at collection points at all four campuses.
Later on the same day, volunteers must take a self-administered rapid nasal swab antigen test and upload the result onto the UniCoV website – unicov.org.
Trinity and UCD are using self LAMP testing developed by TriniScreen, while samples from NUIG and UCC undergo PCR testing instead.
Additionally, the study will monitor and analyse wastewater on campus for the presence of Covid-19.
In a statement to Trinity News this afternoon, a College spokesperson said: “We have been running TriniScreen in Trinity since September 2020. This has provided valuable information needed to establish UniCov in partnership with UCD, UCC and NUIG.”
“We have the laboratory aspects of UniCov ready to commence, and we are finalising the IT elements, which will make the process much more user friendly. Our IT team is working through the final logistics of the web- and app-based elements of the project and we hope to be fully operational in the next few days.”
The statement continued to say that “in the meantime, people can register their interest in participation and our team will contact them as soon as all of the internal workflow checks have been completed.”
Trinity News has also contacted Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) for comment and is awaiting response.
Willing participants can register at the UniCoV website, www.unicov.org
This article was updated on 12 July at 15.34 to include a statement from College.