Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced mass covid testing will take place in schools in the worst affected areas of Kent, Essex and London.
Speaking at a briefing today (December 10) he said: “I’m particularly concerned about the number of cases in London, Kent and Essex. Cases are rising – and in many areas, already high.
“Looking into the detail, the testing results and surveys show us that by far the fastest rise is among secondary school age children, 11 to 18 year-olds while the rate among adults in London is broadly flat.
“But we know from experience that a sharp rise in cases in younger people can lead to a rise amongst more vulnerable age groups later. We’ve seen that happen before. So we need to do everything we can to stop the spread among school-age children in London right now.
“We must not wait until the review which will take place on the 16 December. We need to take targeted action immediately.
“Having spoken to the leaders of London’s councils, and to the mayor, we have decided to put in place an immediate plan for testing all secondary school aged children in the 7 worst affected boroughs of London, in parts of Essex that border London, and parts of Kent.
“We want to keep schools open, because that’s both right for education and right for public health. We are therefore surging mobile testing units and we will be working with schools and local authorities to encourage these children and their families to get tested over the coming days.”
Kent County Council has welcomed the government announcement that targeted asymptomatic testing is being offered to secondary schools in Kent before Christmas.
Roger Gough, Leader of Kent County Council said: “Schools have worked hard to provide high quality education to school children throughout the pandemic and we remain concerned about the high and increasing case numbers in Kent and the number of school age children testing positive. It is right that pupils and families are offered a test to identify cases of coronavirus and ensure swift action can be taken as the festive break approaches.
“Along with other measures being taken to keep children and young people safe, these tests will help reduce the risk of people without symptoms transmitting the virus.
“It is a logistical challenge of considerable scale but we are committed to ensuring that tests are available, and have urged all schools to support the programme.
“I want to remind everyone that there is plenty of testing capacity in the system for people experiencing symptoms, and anyone with symptoms should book a test https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test. In addition, I urge people to continue to abide by the rules of Tier 3 restrictions, limit your contact with other people, wear a mask in public places where appropriate and maintain excellent hand hygiene.”