Mass testing will be rolled out for secondary school children in certain Covid hotspots in England, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced.
Mr Hancock said coronavirus cases in some areas are quickly rising, with the 11 to 18 year old age group seeing "by far the fastest rise.”
The areas and schools affected
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Mass testing will be made available to all secondary school and college students in the seven worst affected boroughs in London, as well as parts of south Essex that border with London, and areas of Kent.
In north east London, an additional 44,000 home test kits will be made available for school staff, and 15 mobile testing units (MTU) will be deployed in or near schools in the worst-affected boroughs. This will allow staff, students and their families to be tested.
An additional 10 MTUs will be deployed over the weekend in Essex. Two further MTUs will also be deployed in Kent on Saturday (12 Dec), with 10 more to arrive later during the weekend.
The London boroughs which will receive additional testing are:
- Barking and Dagenham
- Hackney and the City
- Tower Hamlets
- Waltham Forest
The Essex boroughs included in the mass testing in secondary schools are:
- Canvey Island
Schools and colleges will be provided with information on how to get involved with testing. Parents will be able to apply for Covid tests using the online testing portal.
‘Step forward for testing’
Mr Hancock said the government wants to keep schools open, but urges those in the specified age group to get tested for the virus.
"We want to keep schools open, because that's both right for education and public health,” said the health secretary.
"I want to urge all those involved to step forward for the testing. It's important that 11 to 18-year-olds get tested in these boroughs."
London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan welcomed the testing programme for London schools.
He said, “Nobody wants the capital to face Tier 3 restrictions, but with cases rising we face a tipping point.
“That's why it's important that the government is providing this much-needed testing support and it is essential that Londoners continue to follow the rules to reduce the spread of the virus."