Daily Covid tests for secondary school pupils and staff in England have been paused - here’s why

Thursday, 21st January 2021, 12:01 pm
Updated Thursday, 21st January 2021, 12:01 pm
The daily testing of secondary school pupils and staff in England has been temporarily paused, due to concerns over the new variant (Photo: Shutterstock)

The daily testing of secondary school pupils and staff in England has been temporarily paused, due to concerns over the new variant.

The Government accepted the recommendation from both Public Health England (PHE) and NHS Test and Trace that daily testing in schools and colleges should be paused, due to the balance between the risks and benefits becoming “unclear” after the emergence of the new variant.

Prior to this, students and staff in secondary schools and colleges who were in close contact with someone who had tested positive for the virus would be tested for seven days and allowed to remain in school if the test was negative.

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‘We now recommend that the rollout of daily contact testing within schools is paused’

Daily testing will be paused in secondary schools across the country, with the exception of a small number of schools and colleges which are “involved in further evaluation.”

A statement from PHE and NHS Test and Trace on Wednesday (20 Jan) said: “The balance between the risks (transmission of virus in schools and onward to households and the wider community) and benefits (education in a face-to-face and safe setting) for daily contact testing is unclear.

“In light of this changing situation, we now recommend that the rollout of daily contact testing within schools is paused, other than for schools involved in further evaluation.

“This will 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.”

However, schools and colleges will continue to test their staff regularly on a twice weekly basis and will test students twice upon their return to school, in a bid to help identify those who have Covid but are not experiencing any symptoms.

Will daily Covid testing in secondary schools resume?

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said he hopes the daily testing of pupils and staff in secondary schools for Covid will be able to resume, but this has not yet been confirmed.

Mr Williamson told BBC Breakfast: “With the emergence of a new variant what we have been asked to do by Public Health England is that they wanted to look at more detail as to how that was working with the new variant.

“We very much hope that we will be able to restart that programme that worked so well.”