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‘Students will need Covid tests every 2-3 days to keep campus safe’

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To fight against novel coronavirus, researchers have revealed that college students would need to be tested for Covid-19 infection in every two to three days for safely reopen of campuses this fall.

The study, published in the journal JAMA Network Open, defines the screening performance standards for SARS-CoV-2 tests that would permit the safe return of students to the US residential college campuses this fall.

“In the absence of an effective vaccine, the best hope for reopening campuses in the fall is likely to be a robust strategy of behaviour-based prevention combined with regular monitoring to rapidly detect, isolate, and contain Covid-19 infections when they occur,” said the study authors from the Yale University in the US.

For the study, the research team used epidemic modelling to test different monitoring programmes that would minimise Covid-19 cases and also maintain a college’s ability to isolate and quarantine infected students.

The analytic modelling study of a hypothetical cohort of 4,990 college-age students without SARS-CoV-2 infection and 10 students with undetected asymptomatic cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection were conducted.

The findings suggested that frequent screening (every two days) of all students with a low-sensitivity, the high-specificity test might be required to control outbreaks with manageable isolation dormitory utilisation at a justifiable cost.

The research team found that every infection prevention strategy on the table will be crucial to preventing campus outbreaks — including frequent hand-washing, wearing masks, social distancing in classrooms and dorms.

In this modelling study, symptom-based screening alone was not sufficient to contain an outbreak, and the safe reopening of campuses in fall 2020 may require screening every two days, uncompromising vigilance, and continuous attention to good prevention practices, the researchers said.

“The safe return of students to residential colleges demands an effective SARS-CoV-2 monitoring strategy,” the study authors wrote.

“Results suggest that a highly specific screening test that can easily be administered to each student every one to seven days,” they added.

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