Free 'click and collect' Covid-19 tests for families sending children back to school

Phoebe Southworth
·3-min read
The Prime Minister visiting a school in Lancashire - Getty Images Europe 
The Prime Minister visiting a school in Lancashire - Getty Images Europe

Families sending their children back to school on March 8 will be able to order free "click and collect" coronavirus tests every week, the Government announced on Sunday.

Two rapid Covid-19 tests per person will be offered to households, childcare and support bubbles of primary, secondary and college-age children, as well as school bus drivers and after-school club leaders.

Testing kits will be available to order online and collect from March 1 from more than 500 locations across the country, and can then be taken at home.

Asymptomatic testing is part of the government's strategy to get children back into classrooms without creating a surge in infections.

Around a third of people with Covid-19 show no symptoms and could be unaware they are spreading it. The rapid tests deliver a result in less than 30 minutes. Any positive cases will be required to take another test, called a PCR, to confirm the result - either at home or a testing site.

It is hoped that carrying out frequent tests will root out any positive cases which could cause rapid transmission of the virus in homes and educational settings - potentially throwing Prime Minister Boris Johnson's cautious roadmap off course.

Writing in The Telegraph, Dr Susan Hopkins, Covid-19 Strategic Response Director to Public Health England and Chief Medical Adviser to NHS Test and Trace, urged families to accept tests if they are offered them.

"More rapid testing for the school community will mean more positive cases within households are found and prevented from entering schools and colleges," she said.

"Getting into the habit of regular testing as part of our everyday lives will play an important role as restrictions are lifted and we begin to get back to more normal ways of life."

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.

Secondary school and college students will receive three initial tests when they first return to school or college. They will then be provided with two rapid tests to use at home each week.

Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, said twice weekly testing provides "another layer of reassurance to parents and education staff that schools are as safe as possible".

Prof Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director at Public Health England, said the quick and painless rapid tests will break chains of transmission and help save lives.

All primary and secondary schools have been closed since Jan 5 following the introduction of a third national lockdown in England, and have since offered remote learning for students. Only vulnerable children and children of key workers are currently allowed to attend schools for face-to-face learning.

Mr Johnson's optimism on school reopening is built on the success of the vaccination programme, as more than 19 million people have now received the first dose of the vaccine in the UK.

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said: “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.

“As we continue to roll out the vaccine, testing offers us a way forward. Sustained and repeated testing for people without symptoms has a critical role to play as sections of society are reopened by driving down transmission rates

“By everyone playing their part and getting tested regularly, vital public services, workplaces and educational settings can stay open and running, and we can move closer to a more normal way of life.”