Whole families and households with primary school, secondary school and college age children, including childcare and support bubbles, will be able to test themselves twice every week from home as schools return from 8 March.
Testing will continue to be a vital part of our response to COVID-19, supporting the roadmap set out by the Prime Minister earlier last week. As we cautiously ease restrictions in England, starting with the return of schools and moving towards more social mixing at the end of March, we need to be sure that each COVID-19 case is found as quickly and as easily as possible. Although cases are declining, everyone needs to play their part to keep the virus under control while keeping children and young people in school.
As laid out in the roadmap, secondary school and college students will now be tested twice a week, receiving three initial tests at school or college before transitioning to twice weekly home testing.
Primary school children will not be regularly asymptomatically tested due to low levels of transmission between younger aged children but will continue to need to come forward for tests if they have symptoms.
In addition to this, 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 and young people, including childcare and support bubbles, to help find more COVID-19 cases and break chains of transmission. Twice-weekly testing will also be offered to adults working in the wider school community, including bus drivers and after school club leaders.
With about a third of individuals with coronavirus showing no symptoms and potentially spreading it without knowing, targeted, regular testing will mean more positive cases within households are found and prevented from entering schools and colleges, helping to keep educational settings safe.
Rapid testing detects cases quickly – in under 30 minutes – meaning positive cases can isolate immediately. This can be the difference between children being able to stay in school, or a class being sent home due to an outbreak. It could also be the difference between a workplace having to close for a period or being able to stay open and running.
Professor Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director at Public Health England, said: "These rapid tests help uncover hidden cases of the virus and break chains of transmission, stopping outbreaks before they occur. Combined with other protective measures, they are a vital tool to help us lower infection rates and ensure that they stay low.
"I would encourage all eligible households to take up the offer of twice weekly rapid testing – it's quick and painless and could help save lives."
All households with primary and secondary school and college age children, and childcare and support bubbles, will be encouraged to start regular twice-weekly testing as schools return. Tests will be available for adults in these households to collect on 1 March. As with student testing, this is encouraged but not mandatory. A secondary PCR test will be required for positive lateral flow tests which are taken at home, either through at home PCR testing or at a local PCR testing site.
A new rapid lateral flow home ordering service launched on 1 March allows people to order lateral flow tests online to be delivered to their home. Click here to order online.Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should book a test online or by calling 119.