Celebrating a Covid Christmas: university support, testing and more

Last week, Principal Mapstone announced that the University would roll out asymptomatic Covid-19 testing for all students, just in time for Winter Break starting November 28th. Despite this reassurance, as the holidays draw nearer, everyone will undoubtedly still have questions on what they are allowed to do, when they can travel home, and how this testing will work.

Who can get a test?

Whether you plan on staying in St Andrews or going home, you will be able to get a free test at the sports centre. However, you have to book an appointment ahead of time. Appointments opened on November 26th, so you can book one now MySaint. Appointments will probably fill up quickly, so make sure you book one as soon as you can for a time that works best for you, because the university will not accept it as an excuse to miss an exam.

What will the test be like?

The test is called ‘lateral-flow,' which involves taking a swab from the mouth and nose. It only takes a few minutes, and you will be notified of your result by email or text within twenty-four hours, but Principal Mapstone said you could receive a result within thirty minutes. The Scottish government is advising you take two tests, at least three days apart and no more than five, to make absolutely sure that you do not have Covid. Even if you do not have time to get two tests before you leave, taking one test will still hopefully help indicate whether you are carrying Covid or not.  

If you test positive, you will receive advice on how to self-isolate from the NHS and have to take another test at Victory Memorial Hall. If you test positive again, you will have to self-isolate. If you test negative with either test, the university recommends that you travel as soon as possible to lower the risk of picking up the virus before you leave. This test will not be regarded by airlines as ‘fit to fly’ evidence, so if you need this evidence, you should get tested by a different provider.

What if I’m staying in St Andrews?

If you’re staying in St Andrews, the University is planning a series of ‘Can Do’ activities over the break. The Principal has not elaborated on these activities, but you can see what kinds of ‘Can Do’ activities the university has done previously on the university website. If you live in halls, you should have already received information on discounts and waivers, but even if you live in private accommodation the university will still look after you.

What if I’m going home?

While the Scottish government has recently moved several areas up in restriction levels, Principal Mapstone has said that these restrictions will not interfere with anyone’s travel plans, and reassured students that they should not change their current travel plans. For those going home, the university is offering free transport from St Andrews to local airports and rail links.

While 80% of the student population are planning on travelling home for the holidays, about one thousand students will be staying in St Andrews. I am planning on going home to the United States in early December, so I will be able to get at least one Covid test before flying. I have been waiting for the University to roll out their asymptomatic testing so I could feel some peace of mind before flying home.

For me personally, I'm putting in extra effort to be safe before heading home. While talking with friends about our Winter Break plans, we agreed that seeing fewer people in the weeks before we leave was smart, so as to limit the risk of picking up the virus. One of my friends from England told me she was also planning on going home for the break, but she is travelling by car. She said she felt lucky to be able to go home by car and that it would hopefully reduce the amount of people she comes into contact with on her way home. However, another friend who is also an international student said that she was staying in her flat in St Andrews. As a person who is at risk and would return to a rural part of her country, going home would be dangerous. All of us felt grateful for the voluntary testing system so we could make sure we are healthy going into the break and carry out our holiday plans safely.