Daily COVID-19 testing in schools on hold
Daily COVID-19 testing of school students and teachers has been paused by Government after Public Health England recommended the suspension of lateral flow tests in these settings due to questions over their widespread use in rapid testing programmes. Gavin Williamson, the Education Minister, had hailed the daily school testing as a “milestone moment” five weeks ago upon the scheme’s launch. PHE stated its uncertainty over the initiative as it balanced the risks and potential of rapid testing in schools amid the emergence of the coronavirus variant from South-East England.
PHE said that the pause would “enable the further detailed evaluation of changing circumstances including, potentially, lower infection rates and modelling work required to understand the benefits of daily contact testing in this new phase of the pandemic.” Schools have been permitted to continue with the bi-weekly testing of staff and the two-time testing of students upon their return to school.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders said that headteachers feel “relieved” at the suspension of daily testing. There was a risk of positive cases not being picked up through the tests, allowing virus transmission to continue in school environment unbeknownst to pupils, staff or families. “It is important to understand that this issue is about one specific use of these tests. We support the principle of using them for general mass testing of students and staff because this process should pick up at least a proportion of asymptomatic cases”, he commented.