Parents and grandparents of schoolchildren will be offered at-home Covid tests twice a week to help keep schools safe
- Whole families with schoolchildren are to be given regular coronavirus tests
- Tests will also be offered twice a week to adults including school bus drivers
- A confirmatory PCR test will be required if lateral flow test comes back positive
Parents and grandparents of schoolchildren will be offered at-home Covid tests twice a week ahead of classrooms in England reopening from March 8.
Whole families with primary and secondary school-age children, as well as people in their childcare and support bubbles, will be given the regular tests, Ministers will announce today.
The rapid – or lateral flow – testing kits will be provided regardless of whether anyone in the family has symptoms of Coronavirus and will be available from tomorrow.
All members of households with children attending school or sixth form college will be encouraged to begin regular twice-weekly testing, although the tests will not be compulsory
Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said: 'Regular testing of households and childcare support bubbles of children in 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.'
Tests will also be offered twice a week to adults working with schools, including bus drivers and after-school club leaders.
From tomorrow they can be ordered and collected from more than 500 local sites or administered through workplace testing programmes.
All members of households with children attending school or sixth form college will be encouraged to begin regular twice-weekly testing, although the tests will not be compulsory.
A confirmatory PCR test will be required if a lateral flow test comes back positive.
Tests will also be offered twice a week to adults working with schools, including bus drivers and after-school club leaders. Boris Johnson is seen attending a school in Accrington, north west England
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said the tests will 'provide yet another layer of reassurance to parents and education staff that schools are as safe as possible'.
The announcement comes in addition to plans for twice-weekly tests for secondary school pupils, with the first three at school before they start taking them at home.
Meanwhile leading members of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) of Tory MPs voiced new concerns yesterday over the Government's recommendation that secondary school pupils should wear masks in 'all indoor environments' where social distancing cannot be maintained.
Sir Graham Brady, who chairs the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, said: 'The sight of children wearing masks in classrooms will be a haunting one.
'Education and social development need proper communication and means seeing people's faces.
'By March 8, the top four groups will have – in the words of the four chief scientific officers – 'substantial protection' from Covid.
'Why are these additional measures necessary now when they weren't deemed necessary last autumn?'
Fellow CRG steering group member Harriett Baldwin said: 'The World Health Organisation requires governments around the world to show the evidence and the cost benefit analysis they've performed when recommending that children wear masks.
'I hope the Government can urgently publish this work before March 8, along with the scientific evidence which underpins this latest instruction to schools, so that headteachers can decide what to do.'
Not all back on 8th - union
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders union, said not all secondary students will return on March 8 due to the need to test them all for Covid-19.
He told BBC Breakfast: 'It's not going to be life as normal... MASH-style field hospitals essentially are having to be set up in order to do these lateral flow tests.
'We shouldn't expect that on the eighth all pupils will be back in, it will be from the eighth.'