Cumbria high schools Covid test plan after Christmas

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Students at Trinity School in Carlisle will be offered the rapid tests which give results in 30 minutes

Cumbria's secondary schools could be offered Covid-19 tests when they return after the Christmas holidays.

Some have already signed up to the council pilot to offer students a rapid turnaround test, which gives results in half an hour. It will not be mandatory.

Trinity School in Carlisle said it would take part and has told parents it hoped tests would not cause disruption to lessons.

Cumbria's public health director called it a "massive logistical challenge".

The council said about half of its 40 secondary schools will be involved, with talks taking place with head teachers. Consent will be required from parents.

Any student that tests positive would have to take a confirmatory PCR test, which is more accurate.

Cumbria is in tier two of the government's coronavirus restrictions, with rates reducing in recent weeks, according to the council.

'Tests not fool proof'

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the fastest rise in infections was among 11-18-year-olds, with mass testing being introduced in England's tier three "high risk" areas.

Colin Cox, director of public health, said Cumbria was "in a reasonably good place" in terms of school infections.

"What we want to do is get ahead of the game and really reduce the chance of future outbreaks," he said.

"We are expecting greater social mixing over Christmas and new year and in order to minimise the risk of that we want to see whether we can offer secondary schools that opportunity to do rapid testing on the first day back into term.

"It's not fool proof. We know that Lateral Flow tests are less accurate and do miss around a fifth of positive cases, but even so, if we can get a large number of pupils and teachers tested it massively reduces the risk of infection being brought into schools."

Judith Schafer, chair of the Cumbria Association of Secondary Headteachers, said if agreed, she hoped as many students and staff as possible would take part.

"It's a complicated exercise and the details are still being discussed," she added.

"But provided the resources are available and the logistical challenges can be overcome, it will make a difference."

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