Be safe this Christmas/Winter break

An early morning frost on the Sunken Garden

For those students who are currently staying on our Edinburgh, Galashiels and Orkney campuses, the Scottish Government has shared their outline plans for getting you home safely for Christmas. This is also our wish, and we will do everything we can to get you home – and back again in January – as safely as possible. We’re confident that if we work together, we’ll make it happen, and in a way that keeps you, and everyone around you, safe. We are also working to make sure that we provide support to our students remaining on campus over the break.

Going home for Christmas

The Scottish Government wrote to all students, giving more detail on how this will happen. Read a copy of the letter from Richard Lochhead, the Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science.

Testing on campus for students planning on going home

Heriot-Watt University is working with the Scottish Government to provide free asymptomatic COVID tests for all students planning to leave their term-time address over the Christmas break.

The tests are voluntary, but it is strongly recommended you take part. It is possible to carry the virus and have no symptoms which means, without realising it, you risk infecting family or friends over the holidays. So, please, help us look after you and those around you, by taking the test.

This type of testing is only for people who do not have symptoms of COVID. If you do have symptoms, or feel unwell, please contact our Safeguarding team who will help you.

More FAQs are available on Student Information Scotland

Read the Scottish Government guidance for students returning home for Christmas.

When will the tests start and where?
Testing will start on Monday 30 November. On our Edinburgh campus, this will be in Sports Hall 2 of the Oriam. A booking system is being set up for appointments and we will provide more details as soon as possible. You must book your appointment in advance.
We will also be providing tests at our Borders Campus in Galashiels and at our Orkney campus. Again, more details will follow.
Do I need to be living on campus to get the test?
No. The test will be available to all Heriot-Watt students living either on campus or in private rented accommodation that wish to travel over Christmas. Everyone will need to book an appointment. If you are travelling to your appointment on public transport, please remember the safety requirements.
How many tests do I need to take?
The Scottish Government recommendation is that you take two tests, three days apart, to give sufficient confidence to you and your family and friends that you are not infectious. If taking two tests is not possible, one will still be helpful. But for peace of mind, the recommendation is two. We will have test kits and appointments available to support two tests.
Do I need to self-isolate between the tests?
If you test negative, no. You would only need to self-isolate if you test positive.
What does the test involve?
The test involves you taking a swab from your mouth and nose and takes just a few minutes. We will have trained staff at each campus to help direct you.
You will be sent your test result by email or text within 24 hours, or sooner, by NHS Test and Protect.
Who gets the test results?
Only you will receive the results. If you test positive, however, we ask you please to inform the Safeguarding Team as soon as possible – they will help with guidance on self-isolation. And along with the Res Life team, will support you during this time.
I’ve already had COVID. Do I still need a test?
If you have had a positive PCR test within the past 90 days then you should not participate in Lateral Flow Device testing.  If you have not been tested before, or if you have previously tested negative, or if have previously tested positive more than 90 days ago then you can participate in the lateral flow testing.
What will the test tell me?
The test will tell you if you are currently infectious with COVID. This will help you to know when it is safe to travel without risking infecting others.
Would the lateral flow test meet other countries’ testing requirement for international travel?
No. The requirements for international travel are set by each country.  If a test result is required, it is likely to be a PCR test that you require and not a lateral flow test.  If you require a PCR test for travel purposes you will need to access a test privately and will have to pay for it. 
What happens if I test negative?
You will be sent a text or email with your result. If you test negative in both tests, the recommendation is that you travel as soon as possible, and within 24 hours, to minimise the risk of you picking up COVID before you leave. We are expecting confirmation from the Scottish Government that students who test negative will be exempt from the current travel restrictions that are in place across Level 3 and 4 (in Scotland) until 11 December.
What happens if I test positive?
You will be sent a text or email with your result. If you test positive, you should contact the Safeguarding Team and follow the self-isolation guidelines. You may be asked to take another test to confirm your result, by NHS Test and Protect, and the Safeguarding Team will help you with that.
If this further test comes back negative, the recommendation is that you travel as soon as possible to minimise the risks of you picking up COVID before you leave.
What happens next?
There’s still a lot to work through, but we’re trying to give you as much information as possible as quickly as we can.
Please continue to follow the Government guidelines on social distancing, not meeting other households indoors, wearing a face-coverings and washing your hands. This is still incredibly important.
And if you start to show any symptoms, or feel unwell, please contact the Safeguarding Team for help.
You will be sent a note of how to make an appointment when booking system opens. Please keep checking your University email account regularly for updates and reminders.
How long will the test take?
We are allowing 20 minutes for each test, including registration.
I’ve had 2 negative lateral flow test results but there are travel restrictions in Scotland preventing movement between health board areas and to the rest of the UK
Yes. Students will be able to travel home at the end of term regardless of the protection level they are living in or moving to. You should continue to follow the Scottish Government’s FACTS guidance at all times.

Asymptomatic Testing booking

The booking system for students is now open and can be accessed on the Student Portal as this information continues to change on a regular basis. 

The schedules for Edinburgh and the Borders are;

Edinburgh Testing Centre – Sports Hall 2 Edinburgh Campus.
Monday 30th November: between 1pm and 5pm (second test Thursday 3rd December)
Tuesday 1st December: between 9am and 5pm (second test Friday 4th December)  

Borders Campus – Gateway Building
Wednesday 2nd December: between 10am and 4pm (second test Saturday 5th December)

We are working with the health authorities in Orkney to provide tests for our students there.

Students and shared accommodation forming bubbles at Christmas

Students who return home at the end of term will be part of the household they have returned to. 

People other than students who live in a shared flat or house are considered a household.

The government is urging not to split up and enter separate bubbles over the festive period.

If people are joining different bubbles, they should isolate from their flatmates for about a week both before and after joining the bubble.