Nadhim Zahawi Says If Parents Can’t Get Lateral Flow Tests They Should “Refresh Their Webpage”
Nadhim Zahawi said the government had tripled the number of lateral flow tests available ahead of the new school term, despite none showing as available on the government website.
Pupils returning to schools this week will be required to take weekly on-site lateral flow tests, as well as taking two tests from home, and isolating if they test positive.
The education secretary insisted that the “supply will absolutely be there”, and said parents seeking tests for their children should “refresh their webpage”.
Concerns have been raised over the supply of the rapid coronavirus tests after unprecedented demand over the festive season hit supply, with the government website frequently showing that no tests were available.
But Zahawi dismissed supply concerns. “The supply will absolutely be there," he told Sky News.
"If people feel that they can't get the supply they should just refresh their webpage.”
He added that he’d ensured there was a “different route of supply for schools” and that he was “confident” current shortages would not affect on-site testing as pupils return from the Christmas break.
The number of lateral flow tests had been increased to 300 million a month, Zahawi said, with daily capacity trebled to 900,000 a day.
Testing requirements are one of a number of new measures announced by Zahawi on Sunday for pupils returning to school in the coming weeks.
Secondary school students in England will also be required to wear masks in classrooms, and the government has advised that classes can be merged if there is a shortage of staff as a result of Covid absence.The government has also said schools could return to teaching remotely “if operational challenges caused by workforce shortages make delivery of face-to-face teaching impossible”.
“The priority is to keep schools open. The testing, the staffing support we’re putting in place, and of course the ventilation, is going to make a big difference to schools this year. The most important thing is to keep them open,” Zahawi said on Monday.
Concern over the spread of Covid in schools comes as the number of new infections hit 137,583 on Sunday, bringing the total number of positive tests recorded between 27 December 2021 and 2 January 2022 to 1.1 million.
But Zahawi repeated the government's insistence on Monday that “there’s nothing in the data” to suggest further coronavirus restrictions are needed.
“There’s nothing in the data that gives me any concern that we need to go beyond where we are at,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“There’s some really good data from London that it looks like the infection rates are plateauing, if not yet coming down.”
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