Free COVID-19 tests for families with pupils

2021-03-01 12:04:50

  Pupils attend a class at Ysgol Hafan Y Mor school following the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown in Tenby, Wales, Britain on Feb 26, 2021. [Photo/Agencies] Testing 'will provide yet another layer of reassurance' to parents and teachers Families of all pupils in England will be included in a COVID-19 testing surge under plans for schools to reopen safely from March 8. School-age students returning to the classroom were already promised twice-a-week testing as part of the government's road map out of lockdown announced last week, and now ministers are offering all members of their households and adults working with schools free tests as well. The government said in a news release on Sunday that with the return of schools and more social mixing in March, the rapid lateral flow tests will help keep COVID-19 rates down while vaccines are being rolled out. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said in the statement that testing family members "will provide yet another layer of reassurance to parents and education staff that schools are as safe as possible". He added that the move would build on "the massive increase in testing for secondary school and college students, and strengthened requirements around face coverings in areas where social distancing cannot be maintained." The Department of Health and Social Care said taking the tests will be "encouraged but not mandatory". It said a follow up PCR test would be required if a lateral flow test comes back positive. In the government statement released, Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, said: "These rapid tests help uncover hidden cases of the virus and break chains of transmission, stopping outbreaks before they occur." But some experts have claimed that lateral flow tests are insensitive and can be "ineffective", Sky News reported. It said some studies have suggested rapid tests "fail to pick up cases". The broadcaster quoted public health expert Robert Dingwall, as saying that "the government has bought a huge stockpile of these tests and something has to be done with them." He previously said that "these mass tests miss people with early infections, so they are not really any kind of solution". According to the latest government data, about 20 million people in the United Kingdom have now received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, BBC News reported. The figures showed that of the 20.5 million total jabs given in the UK up to February 26, 19.6 million were first doses. The government aims to offer all adults the vaccine by the end of July. It said a further 290 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19 up to Saturday, bringing the UK total to 122,705.