After a new plan for mass rapid testing was revealed, a new report claims that teachers and schoolchildren could potentially be tested for COVID-19 twice a week as a key to safely ease lockdown restrictions.
When Boris John presents his roadmap for relaxing restrictions on Monday, he is expected to provide further specifics of the scheme.
Every day, as many as 400,000 rapid lateral flow tests will be sent to households, supported by a public information campaign to encourage individuals to take tests even though they show no symptoms.
On Wednesday, The Times reported that staff at the government’s test-and-trace programme were planning a testing plan to be supported by an awareness-raising campaign provisionally titled “Are you ready? Get testing. Go.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News that “one part of the strategic jigsaw” of steps to bring the UK out of lockdown will be the use of lateral flow testing.
“The two or three things that are going to be really important if we are to ease out of lockdown safely and responsibly are, yes, of course, the vaccine and the therapeutics […] but also this lateral flow testing, being able to do it at scale, at pace, so that when you do have upticks of the virus, we can come down on it like a ton of bricks.”
The new scheme will provide twice a week testing for children, their parents, and their support bubbles, until schools reopen in March, with a similar policy targeted at teachers and close contacts.
The proposal would mean about 68 percent of England’s population is eligible for repeated rapid testing, including existing tests for individuals who have to leave home for work, The Times reports.
Subsequent expansion, including the supply of rapid tests to businesses enterprises and distribution through pharmacies and post offices, is scheduled for April and May.
Amina Ahmed, a primary school teacher, thinks that mass testing is a good idea “as we can get a general idea of safety and take the necessary steps if a member of staff does test positive, like closing the class bubble they were teaching in.
“I believe we need to be tested regularly as no matter how careful we try to be, we can easily catch the virus at any point.”
Ms. Ahmed says that the school she works at only recently asked staff to wear face coverings.
“Before December, staff were told not to wear one when we were teaching so I didn’t feel safe.
She says that she was teaching in a class of 30 children, all from different households: “It was quite worrying.”
“It’s still very important that staff get tested for the sake of their health, their family, and the children they work with.”