More than six million rapid tests for Covid-19 were carried out in England in the week to March 10, new figures show – the highest weekly total since rapid testing began.
A total of 6.3 million tests were conducted, up sharply from 2.8 million in the previous week.
The Department of Health and Social Care said the rise coincided with the return from March 8 of secondary students to school.
Government guidance states all students in secondary schools and colleges are expected to complete three rapid tests on their return, spaced three to five days apart, then further tests twice a week.
Rapid tests, or lateral flow device (LFD) tests, are swab tests that give results in 30 minutes or less, without the need for processing in a laboratory.
The latest figures, published as part of the Government’s weekly Test and Trace update, also show that just under 1.1 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests were conducted in the week to March 10 – the lowest number since the week to October 7 2020.
PCR tests are swab tests that are processed in a laboratory.
It is the seventh successive week in which more rapid tests were conducted than PCR tests.
The Department of Health said this reflected the increasing use of rapid tests, as well as a decrease in symptomatic people taking a PCR test due to the decreasing prevalence of Covid-19.
Overall a total of 39,118 people tested positive for Covid-19 in England at least once in the week to March 10.
This is down 14% on the previous week and is the lowest number since the week to September 23 2020.