A new walk-in Covid-19 testing centre is set to be built at the University of Reading (UoR)

The university is waiting for final approval from central government to go ahead with building the centre, which will be available to all and on the border of Reading and Wokingham.

UoR hopes it will be fully functional sometime in October.

Visitors will be able to access the centre by cycling or walking but not by car and you will not have to book in advance.

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Professor Parveen Yaqoob, deputy vice-chancellor at the University of Reading and chair of the Covid Recovery Group, said: “For Reading, if our students wanted to get a test, they would have to wait for it to arrive in the mail or go to Newbury showground – you cannot get there without a car.

“That's why we are considered a priority. But all testing sites are available for staff, students and the public.

“I have seen a lot of complaints from local residents saying how long it is taking them to get a test and having to drive miles to get to a testing site.”

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The new testing centre is part of the government’s plans to increase the number of sites across the country, with universities currently a priority.

According to Professor Yaqoob, there are currently 90 sites in the country and the government wants to increase this to 150 sites by the end of October and 400 by January.

A lot of students have already started moving back into accommodation, with induction week from September 21-25 and the term starting on September 28.

“Blended” learning

The term will start with a “blended learning approach”, which means some face-to-face teaching in small groups and large lectures being held virtually.

This means, if there is a case or there is a local or national lockdown, the university can quickly move lessons online.

Organised fun

As well as teaching, UoR will offer students “structured social activities”, for example a mini golf course for households at the student nightclub during the day, and transforming the club into a pre-booked bar in the evenings.

Professor Yaqoob said: “If we don’t do that the students will find their own ways to socialise.

“We have to think about mental health and wellbeing as well.”

As part of the induction, students will be made aware of the code of conduct which sets out penalties for things like having parties.

Freshers flu

Many students coming from different parts of the country commonly leads to a spike in coughs and colds called “freshers flu”, which could put pressure on testing centres.

But Professor Yaqoob said: “I am expecting it to be lower than normal years because of the social distancing and other measures on personal hygiene.

“That should decrease the number of people who have colds and flu.”

Accommodation: Household sizes, quarantine and self-isolation

International students from many countries will have to go into quarantine for two weeks, while if a student has to self-isolate they will be given a big sticker to put up on their door and will receive support with getting supplies.

Students in halls will be split up into corridors with a maximum of 10 people in line with regulations.

The UoR has also revised accommodation contracts so that students won’t be tied into paying rent for a whole term “if things ends up really different”.

Students numbers

The university is expecting overall student numbers to be “a bit lower” than normal due to a slight dip in international students but Professor Yaqoob said it is “too early to say”.

The UoR will not find out until next week how many students will be on campus and how many will study remotely only.