Weekly Covid-19 tests for all students’ families

Free rapid coronavirus testing is expected to be offered to the families of all pupils in England under the government’s plan to reopen schools.

Rapid testing allows for positive cases of Covid-19 to be detected in under 30 minutes, helping prevent the spread of the virus. Tests will be provided to pupils’ households, as well as those in their childcare or support bubbles, regardless of whether anyone has symptoms, the government announced over the weekend.

According to the Department of Health and Social Care, the rapid tests will be ordered and collected from local sites or administered through workplace testing programmes. Students within secondaries and colleges will receive three initial tests at school, before taking them at home twice each week. Anyone who tests positive will need a secondary PCR test to confirm the result of their home test.

The government believes that this can be the difference between children being able to stay in school, or a class being sent home due to an outbreak.

Announcing the plans, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Regular testing of households and childcare support bubbles of primary and secondary school children is another tool we are making available to help keep schools safe. We know that one in three people with COVID-19 don’t have any symptoms, so targeted, regular testing will mean more positive cases are kept out of schools and colleges.

“As we continue to roll out the vaccine, testing offers us a way forward. Sustained and repeated testing for people without symptoms has a critical role to play as sections of society are reopened by driving down transmission rates.

“By everyone playing their part and getting tested regularly, vital public services, workplaces and educational settings can stay open and running, and we can move closer to a more normal way of life.”

The development comes as the number of daily cases identified in the UK continues to decline, with Saturday’s data showing the lowest number of daily infections since October last year.

Rapid, regular testing for students is one of a range of new measures designed to minimise the spread of the virus and support the successful return of more learners to face-to-face education and childcare settings.