Health Minister Robin Swann and Education Minister Peter Weir have announced a programme of regular testing for Covid-19 is to be introduced in schools in Northern Ireland.

Departmental officials will be liaising with the education sector in the coming days to discuss operational preparation and delivery with a view to rolling out the programme in the coming weeks.

Around one in three people who are infected with Covid-19 have no symptoms and could be spreading the disease without knowing it. Broadening testing to identify those showing no symptoms will mean finding positive cases more quickly and thus assisting in breaking chains of transmission of infection.

Initially, all post-primary staff (including teaching and support staff) and older students in Years 12-14 in schools and in Education Other Than at School (EOTAS) centres will be included in this programme of regular testing, which will use Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests.  Expansion of testing to other staff in primary and pre-school settings will be rolled out in later phases.

Health Minister Robin Swann said: “I am delighted to announce the expansion of our regular testing programme for staff and older pupils. This testing is important as an additional measure alongside the range of existing safety measures in place to help ensure the safety of staff and pupils in schools.

“Whilst the use of LFD tests is important as an additional measure, a negative LFD test result does not enable an individual to drop their guard and people should not change their behaviours.

“My Department is continuing to work with partners in government and industry on further expansion of our programme of regular asymptomatic testing which, alongside our vaccination and contact tracing programmes, will help balance the scales in our favour of success in the battle against Covid-19.”

Testing for schools’ staff and pupils will be twice weekly three to four days apart using LFD tests.  Older students in years 12-14 are included as prevalence of Covid-19 tends to be higher among this group.

Education Minister Peter Weir said: “Today’s announcement is very welcome news and will provide a significant level of reassurance to schools, pupils and parents alike. Initially, testing will be available to all staff in post-primary schools and pupils in years 12 to 14.

“The roll out of this testing programme will provide reassurance for pupils and teachers that the risk of large groups of exam year classes having to isolate during this important period, will be considerably reduced.

“It has always been my preference that all pupils should be in the classroom to benefit from face to face teaching and I welcome the plan to roll out testing for Year 12-14  students as soon as practicable.”

Individuals who receive a positive result from an LFD test will have to isolate along with members of their households from the time of their positive LFD result. A confirmation PCR test will be required for everyone who tests positive on LFD. If the PCR test result is negative, the individual and their household can leave isolation and no further action is required. If the PCR test result is positive the individual and their household and all other close contacts must complete a full 10 days of self-isolation.

Nadia Duncan

Author: Nadia Duncan

Editor

6 Comments

  1. I do not agree that an invasive medical procedure, which is what this is, which is known to produce a high percentage of false positives and cannot solely identify the Covid 19 virus but all coronavirus’s, should be rolled out to staff and pupils. If it is then consent should be sought from staff and the parents/guardians of the children. No one should be forced to undertake an invasive medical procedure without first giving consent and should not be punished if consent is not given, such as exclusion from school or separation from others while in school. This ‘testing’ is neither reliable or needed, especially when statistics show that it is the elderly and those with comorbidities who are the ones most at risk, not those within the age range of the school population. I also believe that the psychological affect this may have on children/young people needs to be taken in to consideration.

  2. Absolutely absurd!!! There is no way that I will consent to some sort of invasive procedure to be carried out on my children. The mental effects on young children are going to be unbelievable in the future if this continues! More so the point is that the false positives are so high in these tests as they cannot pinpoint the sars2 covid and instead may also pick up on old Remnants of similar Corona viruses!!! I really despair at what people are willing to let this government put their children through!!

  3. I will not allow my children to be subjected to this as if its normal. It is not normal for children to be used a Guinea pigs. Tests can be inaccurate and will be used to inflate the cases and try and push the blame on the kids. Never mind the fact they will be in and out of school like yo yos. My children will not be wearing masks or getting tested when they are perfectly healthy it’s psychological warfare. NO NO NO

  4. I will not allow my child to either wear a mask which can cause bacterial punemonia and dies not prevent transmission of any virus or bacteria. Please provide any scientific evidence you may have to the contrary. He will not be tested like some sort of animal. This is absurd and has no scientific evidence to back it. The incidences of false positives will cause many well children and families to be lockdown in their home’s yet again, preventing children from normal development. When did common sense go out the window. To say I’m angry is an understatement. I will not consent to this invasion, if my son is ill, I will keep him gone, I don’t need a test to tell me he or myself are sick.

  5. Why are they determined to terrorise our children? Clearly Robin and Peter need a maths lesson. Before the vaccine role out you have a 99.9% chance of survival from Covid. Now the case numbers are dropping significantly and the vaccine role out has begun….can someone please explain the logic? Schools need to do a risk assessment and look at the scientific evidence. These tests will cause more harm than good. The majority of parents are going to reject this like in England and rightly so.

  6. Leave our children alone!
    Masks and tests are too trumatic for them!
    They are at very low risk! Let the children learn and have fun, like we did growing up!

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