Families of schoolchildren to be sent weekly at-home Covid tests

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Families with children will be offered two Covid rapid tests a week under plans for schools to safely reopen in England from March 8. Up to 32 million lateral flow tests will be given to parents to administer every week in a new government ‘surge’ testing initiative launched tomorrow.
CARDIFF, WALES - FEBRUARY 23: A general view as a teacher holds a creative writing class at Roath Park Primary School on February 23, 2021 in Cardiff, Wales. Children aged three to seven began a phased return to school on Monday. Wales' education minister Kirsty Williams has said more primary school children will be able to return to face-to-face learning from March 15 if coronavirus cases continue to fall. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)
Teacher holds a creative writing class at Roath Park Primary School in Cardiff (Getty)

 Free tests will be provided to pupils’ households, as well as those in their childcare or support bubbles, regardless of whether anyone has symptoms, the government said on Sunday.

The rapid tests will be ordered and collected from local sites or administered through workplace testing programmes, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

Secondary and college pupils will be tested with lateral flow tests twice a week, receiving three initial tests at school before they start taking them at home.

CUCKFIELD, ENGLAND - JANUARY 27: 10 year old Oscar Mumby and 8 year old Harriet Mumby (son and daughter of the photographer) are assisted with their online schoolwork by their mother Jo Mumby as homeschooling continues due to school closures on January 27, 2021 in Cuckfield, United Kingdom. Under current government policy, schools in England wouldn't open before the February half-term break at the earliest, but the prime minister has declined to commit to reopening them before Easter. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Two children being taught at home (Getty)

But Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said he was concerned classrooms would become ‘field hospitals’ under the new testing regime.

He warned: ‘We shouldn’t expect that on the 8th all pupils will be back in.” 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’.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock added: ‘Regular testing of households and childcare support bubbles of primary and secondary school children is another tool we are making available to help keep schools safe. ‘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.’

His department confirmed the tests will be available from March 1. Families with college-aged teenagers who are not studying are not included in the plans, the DHSC said. The twice-weekly tests will also be offered to adults working with schools, such as bus drivers and after school club leaders.