Scientists urge routine Covid testing when English schools reopen

Scientists urge routine Covid testing when English schools reopen

  • Exclusive: experts say staff and pupils should be screened for virus, possibly by group testing

Scientists have called for routine Covid testing of teachers and pupils alongside a robust test-and-trace system, amid a debate over how to safely reopen schools in England.

On Sunday, the children’s commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, said teachers and pupils should have weekly tests, but Nick Gibb, the schools minister, ruled out the idea, saying instead that those who are symptomatic should be tested.

Now researchers behind a report from Delve, a multidisciplinary group convened by the Royal Society, have said routine testing will be necessary when the majority of children return to school.

Dr Ines Hassan, a researcher in the global health governance programme at the University of Edinburgh and a lead author of the report, said the group were recommending the widespread and regular screening of all staff in schools, including those who are asymptomatic.

“The cost-benefit analysis for the screening of asymptomatic pupils is more complicated, but on balance we recommend this also,” she said.

“We recognise that the health risks to pupils themselves from Covid-19 infection are very low. However, the risks to school staff, parents [or] carers and the wider community are clear, and it is also very important to prevent full or partial school closures or widespread absences arising from transmission within schools, as these will cause further losses of learning, with its associated long-term social and economic effects.”