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Major testing drive ahead of return to UK schools next week

A classroom in the United Kingdom. Stock image: UK government

London, June 6 (MNN) UK has set up a major testing programme for students of secondary schools and colleges and their families before the pupils return to the classroom from June 7 following the half-term break.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is urging all these students and their kin to take a coronavirus test before the schools open, the Departments for Education and Health said.

Figures published earlier this week show more than 50 million rapid coronavirus tests have now been conducted by students and staff at schools and colleges across England since January 4.

Building regular twice-weekly testing into routines has been critical in reaching this milestone number of tests, and is testament to the dedication of students and staff to keep the virus out of schools and colleges, the government said.

Schools and colleges had endeavoured in March to identify asymptomatic cases and isolate them as quickly as possible, helping to keep classrooms open.

Rapid testing continues to help find the one in three people with Covid-19 who show no symptoms, allowing them to isolate rather than unknowingly spread the virus, preventing outbreaks from taking hold.

Williamson said: “A year ago it was unimaginable to suggest that a testing programme of this scale and impact could be delivered at the speed we have seen, and I am hugely grateful to the families, students and all those working in education for their role in making it happen.

“Asymptomatic testing helps break chains of transmission by taking people who are infectious but don’t know it out of circulation.

“As the half term comes to an end, take a Covid test before going back to the classroom.”

Health Minister Lord Bethell said: “Rapid testing has underpinned the entire reopening of schools and it’s been a remarkable success that is testament to the herculean efforts of teachers, children and parents playing their part by making a test part of their everyday lives.

“Around one in three people who have COVID-19 experience no symptoms and could go under the radar without regular testing.

“By getting tested multiple times a weeks, children have shown us that it is possible to keep the things we all love open by quickly identifying outbreaks and taking decisive action.

“As parents gear up to return their children to the classroom on Monday, I’d urge them all to carry on doing their bit by keeping calm and carrying on testing during the term ahead.”

Covid-related pupil absence has remained consistently low since the start of the summer term, with only approximately 1 per cent of pupils absent from state-funded schools for Covid-related reasons each day since April 21.

Surge testing is also available in areas of high prevalence of the virus or variants of concern, including on-site testing in selected schools and colleges to provide an additional boost to efforts to keep the virus under control across the country.

Secondary schools and colleges continue to provide packs of tests to their students so they can take two tests a week. Primary schools are also providing packs to their staff.

Everyone is encouraged to test twice a week, with one of the two tests at the weekend to catch cases before starting the new school week. Testing before returning to school after the half-term break will be particularly important after mixing with different groups over the break.

Anyone not working from home is encouraged to follow a similar routine.

With national rates of the virus now much lower than they were, positive cases identified by rapid testing are confirmed with a PCR test, meaning nobody has to worry about isolating unnecessarily following a positive rapid test result.

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