TheWeeklyMagazines News Secondary school pupils may have to test themselves for Covid at home

Secondary school pupils may have to test themselves for Covid at home

Secondary school pupils may have to test themselves for Covid at home despite concerns about the accuracy of self-administered swabs

  • Secondary pupils could be sent lateral flow tests for coronavirus at their home
  • Last year Government had asked schools to turn sites into mass testing centres
  • Tests, which give results in as little as 15 minutes, use swabs of nose or throat

Students may have to test themselves for coronavirus using lateral flow tests as ministers at the Department for Education prepare detailed plans for a phased return to the classroom, The Telegraph reports.    

Secondary school pupils could be sent home testing kits before they return to the classroom under new plans being drawn up by the Government. 

Last year the Government asked schools to prepare their buildings for on-site mass testing but headteachers and union members were quick to call the proposals ‘inoperable’.

It comes a month after questions were raised about the reliability of the tests following an article in the British Medical Journal which claimed the tests were not sensitive enough and not good at detecting the virus in people without symptoms.  

Speaking at the time, director of Schools North East Chris Zarraga told the Northern Echo: ‘Our school staff are exhausted after the longest and most difficult year on record and desperately need the time to recharge and rest before the spring term begins.

Secondary school pupils could be sent lateral flow tests which would enable them to test themselves for coronavirus. (Stock image)

Secondary school pupils could be sent lateral flow tests which would enable them to test themselves for coronavirus. (Stock image)

‘Furthermore, the burden of testing cannot fall on school staff or on a non-existent ”volunteer army”.   

‘However, this announcement means that substantial planning and preparation will need to be done over the holiday period before term starts in January.

A source told The Telegraph: ‘On the one hand, the Government wants everyone back at school, but what if a headteacher of a secondary school of 2,000 pupils says ‘no way’ to setting up lateral flow tests on site?’

However plans to turn schools into mass testing centres could now be ditched by ministers in favour of the self-administered tests.

Samples are then mixed in a testing liquid and put into a plastic cassette which can detect the presence or absence of coronavirus and then produce an image of a line.

Lateral flow tests, which give results in as little as 15 minutes, use swabs of the nose or throat. 

In December, a study in the British Medical Journal warned the rapid test kits were not as effective as others.

Experts recommend a trained nurse or professional carries out the insertion of the swab to get to the necessary spot, which can be extremely uncomfortable. 

It comes as ministers at the Department for Education prepare detailed plans for a phased return to the classroom.  (Stock image)

It comes as ministers at the Department for Education prepare detailed plans for a phased return to the classroom.  (Stock image)

It contradicted earlier lab tests, which found the test had an overall sensitivity of 76.8 per cent, rising to 95 per cent in individuals with a high viral load.

The findings of a pilot of 3,199 people at the University of Liverpool found that the lateral flow tests, produced by US-based Innova, only picked up 48.89 per cent of active infections.

The BMJ report said: ‘The Innova Lateral Flow SARS-CoV-2 antigen test failed to detect three in 10 cases with the highest viral loads, in preliminary data released from the field evaluation of testing in asymptomatic people.’ 

It said the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test was more accurate and gained better detection results. 

Dr Hopkins and others said the authors of the article, had ‘prejudged’ lateral flow tests, adding: ‘They appear to have made up their minds that LFDs (lateral flow device) are dangerous and of no value and therefore should never be used.’

However Dr Susan Hopkins, the chief medical adviser for NHS Test and Trace, and Sage’s Professor Calum Semple were among 14 senior figures who criticised the report’s findings.

WHICH LATERAL FLOW TESTS DOES THE UK GOVERNMENT USE? 

There are currently four lateral flow test devices on the Government’s approved list.

They claimed the article contained ‘factual errors and makes several unsubstantiated allegations and assertions’.

SD Biosensor Standard Q Antigen Test

They are:  

When tested: August 

Manufacturer: SD Biosensor

Real-world accuracy:  Thought to be around 70% – source

Claimed accuracy: 95.5%

SD Biosensor's rapid coronavirus test

SD Biosensor’s rapid coronavirus test

Price: Unknown 

Manufacturer: Innova Medical

Innova Antigen Test

Claimed accuracy: 99%

When tested: August 

Price: £8.69 per test (bulk order)

Real-world accuracy: ‘At least 50 per cent’, according to Dept Health

Healgen Rapid Covid-19 Antigen Test

Innova's rapid coronavirus test

Innova’s rapid coronavirus test

When tested: September

Manufacturer: Healgen

Real-world accuracy: Unknown

Claimed accuracy: 97.3%

Healgen's rapid coronavirus test

Healgen’s rapid coronavirus test

Price: Unknown

Manufacturer: Surescreen

SureScreen COVID-19 Coronavirus Rapid Antigen Test Cassette 

Claimed accuracy: 98%

When tested: December

Price: Unknown  

Real-world accuracy: Unknown

Surescreen's Coronavirus Rapid Antibody Test Cassette

Surescreen’s Coronavirus Rapid Antibody Test Cassette

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