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Staff and students urged to sign up for pilot antigen testing project on four college campuses

Testing will involve volunteers providing saliva samples twice weekly.

Trinity College Dublin campus
Trinity College Dublin campus
Image: Shutterstock/Marc Lechanteur

MINISTER FOR FURTHER and Higher Education Simon Harris is calling on staff and students to volunteer to be part of a pilot rapid testing project. 

The project, called UniCoV, will conduct a large scale analysis of testing technologies for use in surveillance of Covid-19 and prevention in higher education settings. 

These will include rapid antigen testing, saliva-based PCR testing and wastewater surveillance. 

The findings will inform the development of early warning systems for future outbreak prevention and control. 

Staff and students can enrol across four universities – NUI Galway, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin and University College Cork.

Minister Harris recently published the Government’s plan for a safe return to on-site teaching, research and study this semester.

“Rapid testing may potentially be an important element of this plan. 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,” Harris said.

“None of these replace the public health advice but could be additional weapons in our fight against Covid-19,” he said.

“Over 8,000 will participate in the study and it is of course optional but I really would encourage staff and students to participate and help us with our plans for a safe and sustainable re-opening of campuses and society,” the Minister added. 

Testing

Testing will involve volunteers providing saliva samples twice weekly and dropping them off at on-campus collection points.

These samples will undergo PCR or LAMP testing.

On the same day, those volunteers will take a self-administered rapid nasal swab antigen test, and upload a photo of their result from their phone to the secure www.unicov.org website.

The website also includes a detailed information leaflet, instructional videos and an informed consent document.

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The UniCoV study will also include wastewater monitoring. Wastewater surveillance involves the collection of wastewater samples from each campus site and analysis for the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

A live dashboard will provide anonymised aggregate information about each campus’ results. This is a key part of the surveillance system and will allow for early warning of any potential outbreak.

Student Health Units will provide referrals for people with symptoms of Covid-19.

People can sign up to the project at www.unicov.org.

The UniCoV project is led by Professor Breda Smyth, NUI Galway and Director of Public Health, HSE West.

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