Daily lateral flow testing of school children who have been in close contact with someone with Covid is a safe alternative to home isolation, a breakthrough pilot study has found – the BBC reports.
School absences could be reduced by up to 39 per cent, the researchers from the University of Oxford said.
Governments have already announced that the Covid rules will be different come September, with testing playing a greater role in keeping children in school and controlling the spread of the virus.
The pressure to keep children in school has been mounting as national case levels soar, and around one million children were off school due to Covid in England last week.
Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser for NHS Test and Trace, said the study was “a major breakthrough”.
“Children and parents have made enormous personal sacrifices throughout this pandemic by isolating when needed, and we all know the disruption it has caused in their lives,” she said.
“We’ve been trying to find safe alternatives, and this study gives us evidence of safe alternatives to isolation for school contacts.”
The study involved more than 200,000 students and 20,000 staff. Half of the schools were asked to continue with the current isolation policy while the other half asked close contacts of positive cases to take lateral flow tests every day at school. If they tested negative, they were allowed to attend school as normal.
The study found no evidence that the rate of students and staff developing Covid symptoms was different in the group doing daily testing compared with the group of close contacts isolating at home.
David Eyre, study author and associate professor at the University of Oxford, said the findings were “good news for students, parents and teachers”.
Prof James Hargreaves, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said there were some limitations with the study, and better follow-up in the schools studied would have been reassuring.