Unacceptable risks for staff conducting the school fast flow tests

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Key Issues and Risks

  • Volunteers who supervise self-swabbing of students will be at higher risk of being infected with Covid-19.
  • Swabbing venues risk being the site of super-spreader events in students unless set up with meticulous infection control.
  • Students at higher risk from infection with Covid-19 should be offered separate testing protocols, with swabbing from clinically trained staff and in separate locations to the rest of the student body.
  • These lateral flow tests are only 50% sensitive in community settings. So there is a strong case that until tests can be made more accurate they are not worth the effort, disruption, cost, and risk they represent to school communities.
  • Although currently there are no PPE shortages in the NHS, the supply plans for PPE to the NHS did not include supplying schools with the PPE necessary to undertake these tests safely. This risks denying PPE from clinical settings.
  • The new variant of Covid-19 is substantially more easily transmitted. All evidence on infection control protocols have been with the old variants of Covid-19 and so may well be insufficient to prevent the new variant’s transmission.
  • The infection models including the new variant Covid-19 found that to reduce transmission required the closure of schools and the immunisation of 2 million people per week. The government’s original immunisation plans were for 1 million per week. These lateral flow tests risk taking volunteers away from mass immunisation plans which would actually impact on Covid-19 transmission.