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Tracking the failures of Warwick Test and Trace

Warwick students have encountered several difficulties with the University’s own test and trace system, including conflicting information from NHS sources, being encouraged to not get tested and continuous isolation periods.

The Boar has received emails from multiple different students that shows Warwick Test and Trace providing a different starting date for an isolation period than the NHS.

In one example, the University instructed a student to begin a 14-day isolation period on 10 October, whereas the NHS told the same student that the self-isolation period should begin on 15 October.

Both of these isolation periods referred to the same point of contact, which was a flatmate that had tested positive.

Another student reported that Warwick Test and Trace was not clear on how long the student should isolate for. The student told The Boar that they were told to isolate “for 14 days, then 10 days and then it was increased to 14 again”.

Another student who tested positive reported that they received a call from the University to ensure that they were self-isolating three days after their isolation period had finished.

The student had already informed the University the date that they received the positive test result. Due to the restrictions in place for students living on campus some have had to self-isolate for several weeks in a row. One student said that they have been forced to self-isolate “for five weeks in a row”.

“It is literally torture at this point, I travelled to the UK so I could be on campus. The most recent extension is because someone in the kitchen next to us tested positive but none of us have met anyone in that kitchen because we have been isolating.”

The student showed The Boar email confirmation that said: “There has been subsequent cases in your household group and there is a need to extend the self-isolation period.”

When asked by The Boar why students have been receiving conflicting dates for self-isolation period, the University commented: “If the first point of contact is established by our own test and trace system from something that happened on campus then it is likely that our service will have more accurate details.”

It could not be clearer on the website that the system is only for Staff and Students that are showing symptoms

– Spokesperson for the University of Warwick

Students’ experience with the system has varied heavily. One student said that they “do not want to blame the staff because they are overworked” but after being told conflicting self-isolation dates, they “feel that the system is very disorganised and confusing to use”.

Keeva O’Kane Bentall, a third-year student, received an “aggressive” response after she had tested positive for Covid-19 through the University’s test and trace system.

“I got a call the day I tested positive from test and trace at Warwick, they asked when my symptoms began, and I told them I didn’t have any but had close contact with someone who tested positive.

“The man on the phone gets really rude with me and starts telling me off for getting a test and saying I should never have gotten a test. He tells me my housemates should quarantine but that they absolutely shouldn’t be getting a test as that ‘would be a waste’ like mine was.”

The University responded to the claims that students are being discouraged from taking a test, saying that: “It could not be clearer on the website that the system is only for Staff and Students that are showing symptoms.”

Another student said they had to wait six days for a test result from the University’s service to come back. Having taken a test on Monday 12 October, they were told it was processing through a MyWarwick app notification. The student received a positive result on Sunday 18 October.

“It was very confusing – I was left completely in the dark by the University. Every attempt I made at communicating with them sent me around in circles. I didn’t know who I needed to contact and whether they needed to isolate too.”

Commenting on the situation, the University said: “The analysis is carried out by our partners in the hospital, and we are grateful for their support.

“The usual time it takes to get the sample analysed and back is 24-48 hours. The shortest time it has been turned around is 21 hours and the longest period was six days when a key machine at the hospital needed some urgent maintenance.”

The Boar were told by Warwick that capacity on the test and trace service has not been reached, but “we have plans to expand capacity further in November in case it is needed”.

It was very confusing – I was left completely in the dark by the University

– Anonymous Warwick Student

The University has also announced that two new community testing centres are opening on campus and in Leamington.

The new test centre on campus is located at the Westwood Games Hall on the Westwood campus. The facility is available for members of the public.

A new testing centre independent of the University opened at Court Street Car park on Wednesday 21 October.

The Court Street testing centre can be used by anyone living in the Warwick district council area by booking a test online through the NHS or calling 119

The University has advised students who use testing centres not run by the University to fill in a Contact Trace Form

The University said: “At Warwick, we’re committed to working with the Government to protect communities from the transmission of Covid-19 and we are pleased to support the UK-wide drive to improve and enhance accessibility of coronavirus testing through providing the location for one of these new centres.”

The University is advising students and staff to continue to use the test and trace service on Gibbet Hill campus, if they are able to travel safely.

“Using this dedicated service means that the University can trace those on campus you may have come into contact with, and ensure you are receiving support.”

Students have also been emailed by the University if they have attended a seminar with someone who later tests positive. In the same email they are also told that they do not need to self-isolate despite attending the seminar.

The University confirmed that this practice was not a mistake in the system and has “been policy from the start” and that the “details of timing, layout and social distance measures in place” are all considered before a student is told to self-isolate.


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