Walk-in testing centre pledge following ‘significant outbreak’ of coronavirus cases in student halls

Walk-in testing centres will be rolled out near universities in the coming days, Nicola Sturgeon said as she was questioned about coronavirus outbreaks in student halls across the country.

The First Minister said there is no issue with testing capacity on campuses, but she warned there is a danger routine testing of students may lead to people believing they can ignore the rules and restrictions.

A “significant outbreak” at Glasgow University student residences has led to 124 cases since the start of term, with this number expected to rise.

Some students in Dundee and Aberdeen universities have also been asked to self-isolate.

During First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, opposition party leaders asked Ms Sturgeon about the growing number of cases.

Scottish Conservative Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson said: “We know that the Scottish Government’s plans for testing centres included university sites.

“But we also know only two of the planned 22 centres have opened and that number will rise to half by the end of October.

“The figures we’re seeing in the last few days show that we can’t wait over a month to get the centres up and running, we need them now.”

The First Minister said walk-in centres are already open in Glasgow and St Andrews.

Bookings are also opening on Thursday and Friday for sites in Aberdeen and Edinburgh, she said, with centres also planned for Dundee, Stirling and a second in Glasgow.

She added: “There is never any complacency for me in saying these things but there is no issue at the moment of students who are symptomatic getting tested and getting tested quickly and getting those results.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard also questioned the First Minister on the spike in cases linked to universities, blaming a “failure” by the Scottish Government.

He said: “This is the same failure we’ve had since day one of the pandemic – a failure to anticipate, a failure to plan and above all a failure to test.”

But the First Minister accused the Labour leader of not understanding what the Scottish Government is trying to do to quell the spread of the virus.

She said: “It is not the case… that students who need to be tested right now are not getting tested. They are getting tested. That is why we have the numbers of positive cases.”

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said outbreaks “should have been expected”, with testing sites in place before universities returned, and he compared university halls of residence to cruise ships where coronavirus spread at the beginning of the pandemic.

The First Minister repeated that all students who require a test are able to get one, adding: “We have to make sure that students have the advice that they need to limit the risk of spreading the virus elsewhere.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie asked about routine testing of asymptomatic students, saying it would be an “extra safety measure”.

Ms Sturgeon said this will be kept under consideration, adding: “I’m not saying we should never do that.

“The problem is we have got to be careful that (a) negative test then doesn’t lead a student to say ‘I’m fine, I don’t need to bother with isolation, I don’t need to bother abiding by social distancing and all of the rules’.”

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