By Mary Ma
LSE has begun offering coronavirus nucleic acid tests for all students and staff, starting from September 21st. The tests, provided on campus, are meant for students and staff who are planning to return to campus during Michaelmas Term and will last for three weeks. During this three-week testing period, any LSE community member can book an appointment via the school website for a free testing. The tests are intended only for community members who are not actively presenting symptoms of COVID-19; those presenting systems are asked to self-isolate and seek testing through the National Health Service (NHS).
On-campus test administration will be overseen by Thornbury Nursing Service, a non-LSE affiliated organization which provides nurses on short notices. The tests take around ten minutes per person and require the usage of swabs to take samples from patients, one from the back of the throat and another from the nose.
Students will be required to download and register an account on the mobile app ‘Project Screen’ produced by Prenetics Limited in order to access their results.
The testing regime is part of the LSE Trace—an approach to prevent, protect and minimise the risk of COVID-19 within the LSE community as on-campus activities return. Besides the test, LSE Trace also includes the Weekly Wellness Check-in, which asks all members of the LSE community to complete a brief weekly check-in to let LSE monitor health statuses within the LSE community. LSE encourages community members to report any developed COVID-19 symptoms to the school and the NHS.
LSE has also developed rules for maintaining social distance on campus. Most teaching rooms at LSE have seats marked out at a 2-metre distance from each other. A small number of teaching rooms have seats at a 1.5m distance.
The initial roll-out of testing was mired in confusion. Students who had booked tests on the initial day of testing, September 21, were told on the day before that their tests would not proceed, without reasons stated. An email sent to all students who had booked for COVID testing on Thursday, 24th September confirmed that testing had been suspended due to contractual difficulties with laboratory providers and that a different provider needed to be sourced. Tests are now being run by Project Screen, a non-profit venture of Hong Kong-based Prenetics Limited, under the auspices of for-profit DNA testing company Circle DNA. Prenetics acquired Circle DNA in 2018. The Beaver has not yet been able to confirm the details of the contract between LSE and Prenetics Ltd.