Households with children to get two Covid tests per person every week
- Credit: Swaffham Church of England Primary
Entire households which have school age children will be able to test themselves for Covid twice a week as schools return from March 8.
In line with the government's road map to get children safely back to schools, rapid test kits will be available from local sites, or administered through workplace testing programmes.
The move intends to track more positive Covid cases in households, and prevent them from entering schools and colleges.
The government has confirmed twice-weekly testing using rapid lateral flow tests will be given for free to all families and households with primary, secondary school and college aged children.
This includes childcare and support bubbles and twice-weekly testing will also be offered to adults working in the wider school community, including bus drivers and after school club leaders.
This is in addition to secondary school and college students already being tested twice a week, receiving three initial tests at school or college when they return before changing to twice weekly home testing.
Primary school children will not be regularly tested due to low levels of transmission between younger aged children but will continue to be encouraged to come forward for tests if they have symptoms.
Health secretary, and West Suffolk MP, Matt Hancock said: "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."
Mr Hancock said everyone needs to play their part so that vital public services, workplaces and educational settings can stay open as we move closer to normality.
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The government has said rapid testing detects cases in under 30 minutes, meaning those with positive cases can isolate quickly.
Richard Cranmer, chief executive officer of the St Benet’s Multi Academy Trust, said: "The opportunity to extend the lateral flow testing into homes for our secondary age students will really support the swift and safe return at Archbishop Sancroft High School.
"Every one of us working with children at the moment, either as parents supporting learning at home or teachers delivering online teaching, is very keen to get back to some sense of normality.
"This day is now within sight and I would like to pay tribute to all of our families and staff who have supported our children during these very tough times."
Mr Cranmer added: “It is in this third lockdown that the government now appears to be taking a measured and more informed approach regarding wider school reopening."
Testing is already established in educational settings with millions of rapid Covid tests being conducted in schools and colleges throughout England since January 4.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson said: "Testing family members will provide yet another layer of reassurance to parents and education staff that schools are as safe as possible, building 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.”
There are also calls for all teachers to be vaccinated as pupils return to classrooms across the county.
Nicola Kaye, headteacher of Swaffham Church of England Primary Academy said: "The welfare of staff, pupils and our school community remains our utmost priority. We would welcome the government rolling out the vaccination programme to all school staff to protect staff health and minimise any further disruption to education.”
Anyone with symptoms of Covid-19 should book a test at nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119.