School pupils should only be sent home if they have returned a positive coronavirus test, rather than just displaying symptoms, the prime minister has said.
Speaking to MPs on the Liaison Committee, Boris Johnson said it was important for teachers and parents to examine the Public Health England guidance about coronavirus.
“The reasons for sending such a class home, or a bubble home, would be if somebody tests positive," the PM said.
Mr Johnson’s comments come after a teaching union leader warned that schools in the UK are struggling to cope with the lack of Covid-19 tests for pupils and staff, with the situation becoming “increasingly out of control”.
Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT, called on the government to prioritise the education sector for the allocation of tests in light of widespread challenges.
Three organisations representing school leaders and governors have also implored the prime minister to “take charge” of tackling the delays in obtaining Covid-19 tests to ensure schools remain open.
Increase in testing
The PM admitted to the overall demand for tests in England massively accelerating in the last two weeks, and that a shortage of capacity has contributed to the problem.
Asked at the Liaison Committee whether the UK has enough testing capacity, Mr Johnson responded: "No, we don't."
"We don't have enough testing capacity now, because, in an ideal world, I would like to test absolutely everybody that wants a test immediately."
Mr Johnson promised that testing capacity in England would increase to 500,000 by the end of October. He blamed the shortage on people seeking to book a test without experiencing coronavirus symptoms.
The efforts to increase testing will include securing supplies abroad, batch testing and the building of four new labs, with 300 people being hired.
When should my child be tested for coronavirus?
Parents have been advised to only take their children out of education if they are experiencing the three main symptoms of coronavirus.
- A high temperature
- A new, continuous cough (this means coughing a lot, for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours)
- A loss or change to sense of smell or taste (this means they cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal)
Typical symptoms of a cold, such as a runny nose or a sore throat, are not considered symptoms of coronavirus, and as such, children do not need to be kept off school if experiencing these symptoms.