A message to students from the Vice-Chancellor about the asymptomatic COVID-19 pooled screening programme.

Dear students,
 
Testing
 
The Michaelmas term is now in full swing, and I am writing to remind you of the importance of participating in the University’s asymptomatic COVID-19 pooled screening programme. Since it was set up a year ago, the programme has helped to protect the collegiate University and the wider Cambridge communities, and remains an important tool in ensuring the safest possible start of our academic year. 
 
The most recent data on student asymptomatic testing suggests that levels of participation are lower than we hoped for, and lower than they were last term. While we understand some students’ concerns about taking part (the need to self-isolate following a positive result, for instance), it is clear that as more students join in the regular screening, and therefore help in identifying positive cases before they become outbreaks, the fewer disruptions the student community is likely to experience.
 
It is worth reiterating that, under the current health rules, someone testing positive does not automatically mean that their entire household needs to self-isolate. (An unfortunate exception to this is international students whose vaccination status is not fully recognised in the U.K. – we are lobbying the government to modify its position on this issue.) 
 
Despite the perception that the recent advice may not be relevant to students’ health, students too are at risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19, and of suffering from post-COVID syndrome (or long COVID).
 
The asymptomatic screening programme will be in place for the first four weeks of Michaelmas term, and its extension for the rest of the term is being reviewed at the moment. Low levels of student participation will have an impact on the likelihood of its extension at a critical point. If you have not already done so, I strongly encourage you to register for the pooled screening programme and to take part regularly.
 
In-person teaching
 
The University remains committed to delivering as much in-person teaching as possible in Michaelmas term and beyond. In some specific cases we have said that lectures this term will be recorded, either because of local risk assessment or because this is part of a blended model of teaching. We are keeping this under review and will be making announcements later this term about how teaching will be delivered next term. The decision will be influenced by infection rates in Cambridge. 
 
Yet another compelling reason for students to take part in the asymptomatic screening programme is that it provides an important way of reducing rates of infection in Cambridge, and so will enable even more in-person teaching to take place next term. By being considerate to one another we can all help to ensure that students have the best possible Cambridge experience. 
 
With best wishes,
Stephen
Professor Stephen J Toope 
Vice-Chancellor