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Why are you conducting this pilot study?

“Our study will help us offer more in-person teaching. If we know how reliable these rapid tests are, we may be able to use them on a large scale down the track.”

What is the pilot study going to be like?

“The goal is to have students use at-home test kits twice a week for a six-week period. We will measure the reliability of the tests taken at home by subjecting some of the students to PCR tests, as well. In addition, the students will take part in a behavioural study.”

What do you want to know about students’ behaviour?

“We want to know what impact these at-home rapid tests will have on students’ daily lives. For instance, how often will they use public transport to go anywhere, and how often will they see other people? It’s vital that we get an insight into that.”

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Rotterdam educational institutions to start rapid testing pilot next month

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Who will be taking part in the study?

“In all, 1500 students will be taking part – 500 for each institute. Students will take part on a completely voluntary basis. We do not know yet which students will be invited to take part. We want to involve the students themselves in that, so we will be asking them some questions about that very soon.”

What are rapid tests like?

“You stick a cotton bud up your nose. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be inserted as far as the swabs used in PCR tests. You then put the cotton bud, as well as some liquid, on a plate. You will get the test results soon afterwards. Generally this takes fifteen minutes, but it depends on the supplier. If you test negative, it will be safer for you to use public transport and come to campus.”

Why will you be asking students to take the test twice per week?

“According to the latest insights on at-home test kits, the test results are only valid for a limited period of time, so the tests have to be performed regularly. That’s why we seek to have our students take two tests per week. So if students test negative on a Monday, they will be able to come to campus that Monday and Tuesday. They will then take a new test on Wednesday.”

The pilot study was supposed to start next week. What still needs to be done?

“The main thing we need to focus on now is finding participants. This is something we hope to do in the coming weeks. In addition, we will soon have to make sure we have a proper project organisation in place. This involves several sub-projects – for instance, test logistics, privacy and rules and regulations, and behaviour and communication. All these things need to be combined in the right way.”

What kinds of results are you hoping to achieve?

“I hope all students will soon be allowed to have in-person classes and enjoy student life again. And in the broader scheme of things, I personally think easy large-scale testing will prove to be an important strategy in our entire society. However, this is a pilot study involving academic methods, and I can’t say at present what the results will be like and how reliable at-home test kits will turn out to be.”