Senior doctors call for end to mass Covid testing in schools

Mass Covid testing in schools is sparking ‘unnecessary chaos’ and should be brought to an end, senior doctor says

  • Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s president said tests should go
  • Pupils are currently required to take two lateral flow tests every week
  • If they test positive they are told to stay at home for at least ten days 

Mass Covid testing in schools is sparking ‘unnecessary chaos’ and should be brought to an end, a senior doctor has said.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s president, Dr Camilla Kingdon, also warned children should not be left to ‘carry the burden’ of the pandemic.

Schools in England dropped virtually all virus-control measures in July, except twice weekly testing of pupils. Those who get a positive swab must stay home for 10 days.

But amid rising infection rates among youngsters, some schools are quietly reintroducing measures including face masks and telling children to stay home if their sibling has the virus.

It comes as the NHS plans to unveil walk-in vaccine clinics for school children within weeks in an effort to speed up the jabs rollout.

The president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Dr Camilla Kingdon (pictureD), said that twice weekly testing in schools should be dropped

Yesterday the UK reported 45,140 cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of infections to 8,449.165

The number of Covid deaths in the UK yesterday was 57, down 61 per cent on last Sunday

Walk-in vaccine clinics for schoolchildren will be unveiled within weeks in an effort to speed up the jabs rollout.

The Mail on Sunday can reveal that Ministers are planning to launch the scheme for 12-to- 15-year-olds shortly.

It comes amid concern that the Government has been far too slow in rolling out the vaccination programme in schools.

Sources also claim the new clinics are an attempt to keep anti-vaxxers away from the school gates.

Last night, there were fresh calls to speed up the vaccination of teenagers after an analysis of official figures by The Mail on Sunday found almost half of new Covid cases in England are now in the under-20s.

When schools went back early last month, 33 per cent of new cases were in that age group.

But by the second week of this month, the proportion had grown to 46 per cent. Teenagers now make up the lion’s share of infections in the under-20s.

Dr Kingdon railed against the return of more rules in the classroom today, telling the Daily Telegraph that the age group is at very low risk from the virus.

She said: ‘You are asking completely healthy children to test, with the potential to be excluded (from school), there is just a real concern that we are increasing a level of chaos into the system that is unnecessary.’

Conservative MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge near Sheffield, Miriam Cates, also slammed the tests as ‘utterly pointless’ and ‘just another example of treating children as second-class citizens’.

She told the newspaper: ‘In my constituency, absence rates are considerably higher than normal. 

‘Not all children are actually ill but because they have had a positive test they are not allowed in school for ten days.

‘There is absolutely no reason to continue with mass testing children. All it’s doing is prolonging the disruption and prolonging the fear.’ 

Children who test positive using lateral flows are required to get a PCR test. If this is also positive they must isolate for ten days.

Schools in Trafford, parts of Northamptonshire and areas of the South West have already brought back face masks.

Health bosses in Cumbria are also urging siblings of Covid-infected children to stay at home. 

And there are fears that others in the country may follow suit as Covid cases continue to surge in the age groups.

Children aged 10 to 14 had the highest infection rate in England over the week to October 12, the latest available, at 1,647 cases per 100,000 people.

This was the highest level since the pandemic began, and up more than a quarter on the same time last week.

Those aged 15 to 19 had the second highest infection rate in the country, at 729.6 per 100,00, up by more than 20 per cent in seven days.

More than 200,000 children had a Covid-related school absence in the final week of September, the latest week available, according to official figures. This is equivalent to one in 40 pupils in England.

Yesterday it was revealed that ministers are planning walk-in Covid clinics for 12 to 15-year-olds. Vaccine uptake in the age group is lagging, data shows, with less than 15 per cent having been vaccinated by the week ending October 10, the latest available

It comes as ministers plan walk in Covid jabbing clinics to speed up the roll out to 12 to 15-year-olds.

Children in the age group were told to get one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine last month, but uptake has been slow in the age group.

And analysis shows that almost half of new Covid cases in England last week were among the under-20s.

Dr David Strain, who led an Exeter University study looking at how jabbing teenagers could help others, said the increase was ‘really quite scary’ and showed the campaign needed to be ramped up.

He warned teenagers acted as a ‘viral reservoir’ which would rarely become seriously ill but could spread the virus to more vulnerable age groups.

He said: ‘In our study, we anticipated six weeks or so of infections rising in children and adolescents after they started mixing. Then there would be an uptick of cases in over-65s.

‘If you look at the past couple of weeks’ worth of data, that’s what’s starting to happen. Our next concern is that this [spread to older age groups] is going to cause hospitalisations to rise.’ 

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