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Free Covid tests for all pupils’ families under plans to reopen schools

Sam Blewett, PA Political Correspondent
·2-min read

Whole families with children in school or college will be able to test themselves for coronavirus twice a week from home under plans for schools to safely reopen in England from March 8.

Free tests will be provided to pupils’ households, as well as those in their childcare or support bubbles, regardless of whether anyone has symptoms, the Government said on Sunday.

The rapid tests will be ordered and collected from local sites or administered through workplace testing programmes, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

Secondary and college pupils will be tested with lateral flow tests twice a week, receiving three initial tests at school before they start taking them at home.

Families with college-aged teenagers who are not studying are not included in the plans, the DHSC said.

The twice-weekly tests will also be offered to adults working with schools, such as bus drivers and after school club leaders.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said testing family members “will provide yet another layer of reassurance to parents and education staff that schools are as safe as possible”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock 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.”

His department said the tests will be available from March 1.

Labour’s shadow education secretary Kate Green said: “School testing will not work if families struggling financially are too scared about losing out on income to take the tests.

“If the Government is serious about using testing to help get all children back to school they must improve self-isolation support by extending eligibility for the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment to anyone without access to workplace sick pay.”