Mass testing of students planning to head home for Christmas will begin at the end of the month at some Scottish universities.

The University of Edinburgh and the University of St Andrews have announced plans to offer the voluntary tests from November 30.

The Scottish Government is working with universities across the country and the UK Government’s testing programme to offer free lateral flow testing, which can provide results in 30 minutes.

Announcing plans for the testing programme at the Scottish Parliament last week, higher education minister Richard Lochhead said students are being recommended to take two tests, five days apart.

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Those with a positive result will then have the more sensitive PCR test, used in the main coronavirus testing programme, for confirmation.

He said the lateral flow tests will be offered on a “voluntary basis to all students who are returning home”.

Those who test positive will be asked to self-isolate, as will their close contacts.

The University of Edinburgh is urging any students wishing to travel home in the UK for the winter break to get tested, particularly those with vulnerable family members or who plan to use public transport.

Two testing centres are being set up and will be open from 10am to 8.30pm from November 30 to December 9.

HeraldScotland:

In a statement to students, the university said the test timings mean even those who require to self-isolate should be able to return home “in time for the winter break” once their isolation is complete.

The University of St Andrews is offering the tests to both students who are leaving for the holidays and those who are remaining in the town.

It plans to open a testing centre in the university’s sports centre by November 30.

The university said students should receive test results with 24 hours “and possibly much faster”.

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Those with negative results are being urged to leave within 24 hours if possible to minimise the risk of contracting the virus in the interim.

A spokesman for the university said: “Our priority this term has been to keep our community safe and, in doing so, ensure that the wider community of St Andrews is as safe as possible.

“This has been a very challenging semester for everyone at St Andrews but the response of the vast majority of our students to the risks of Covid transmission and the necessary restrictions placed on them has been hugely positive and responsible.

“As the end of term approaches, we hope this new testing regime will allow students to travel home for Christmas with the reassurance that they are not taking Covid with them.”