Parents Could Be Asked To Test Children For Coronavirus Twice A Week Under New Plans
The return of secondary school children may be staggered to allow for mass testing at the start of each term (PA)
Health minister Helen Whately has said that plans for regular testing of children for Covid-19 to support the reopening of schools are a “work in progress”.
According to The Telegraph, the government is considering asking families to test their secondary school-aged children for coronavirus twice a week, using rapid-result lateral flow tests.
“Work is being done to look at how testing will help schools come back,” Whately said when asked about the proposal on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning.
But she refused to confirm details of how the system would work. "As I said there is work in progress looking at how testing can support schools to come back," she added.
“There's already a level of testing going on in schools where you have children of key workers and teachers in schools at the moment, because schools aren't completely closed.
“There is work going on about the details of the return to school and there'll be more said about that next week.”
Schools are set to reopen on 8 March, with the Prime Minister due to set out the government's roadmap out of lockdown restrictions, which will detail the return to classrooms, on 22 February.
Unions have previously hit back at the prospect of mass testing in schools, with the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) calling for home tests to be distributed to avoid schools becoming “field hospitals”.
Parents will be asked to test their children twice a week (PA)
The proposed system is understood to represent a compromise between unions and ministers by allowing for both home and in-school testing.
Schools will only mass test pupils at the start of term, after which parents will be asked to test their children at home using rapid lateral flow tests.
It is expected that secondary schools will be allowed to stagger the return of each year group to allow for mass testing at the start of each term.
Meanwhile, The Guardian reported on Wednesday that rules surrounding the wearing of face masks in schools are set to be tightened in secondary schools ahead of the return of all pupils.
Masks will be compulsory outside classroom bubbles where social distancing is not possible under plans being considered by the Department for Education.
It was also reported on Thursday that coronavirus infections are more common among primary-age children and young people, despite falling by two-thirds across England as a whole over the past month.
Researchers at Imperial College London’s React 1 study found that prevalence of the virus fell across all age groups, with cases now Covid now most commonly found among 5- to 12-year-olds and 18- to 24-year-olds.
The relatively high rates could be due to a large number of younger children still attending schools, the study suggested, after official government figures revealed in February that a quarter of primary school pupils were receiving in-person teaching.