Health Minister Robin Swann and Education Minister Peter Weir have announced that the programme of regular testing for Covid-19 in post-primary schools is to be expanded to include all pupils.
Since March, regular testing using Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests has been made available to older students in years 12 to 14 in schools and in Education Other Than at School (EOTAS) centres.
All school staff, including teaching and support staff, have also been offered the tests.
Starting this week, the offer of twice-weekly testing will be expanded to pupils in years 8 to 11, providing further reassurance to the school community and families.
Health Minister Robin Swann welcomed the expansion of the schools testing programme.
He said: “The aim of testing is to identify asymptomatic individuals so they and their close contacts can be isolated, therefore breaking chains of transmission in the school and beyond.
“To date, the programme has successfully identified a significant number of positive cases in schools, enabling contact tracing and helping to minimise the risk of transmission.
"Asymptomatic testing should be used in addition to the range of other measures in place in schools and wider society such as social distancing, hand hygiene and face coverings.
“With our successful vaccine programme, we’ve made tremendous progress in our fight against Covid-19, but we must remain cautious and take every step possible to prevent the spread of the virus.”
Testing for school staff and pupils is twice weekly, three to four days apart, using Lateral Flow Devices which provide a result within approximately 30 minutes.
Education Minister Peter Weir said: “I have been working closely with Minister Swann throughout this pandemic to ensure that my Department can provide the most up to date guidance to schools, taking account of all available public health advice.
“Regular testing of staff and pupils, who do not have symptoms of Covid-19, using the self-test Lateral Flow Device (LFD) is an important additional mitigation available to schools.
"The purpose of asymptomatic testing is to find individuals who are infected but do not realise it. They can then be advised to isolate so reducing the risk of them unwittingly spreading infection in the school and elsewhere.
“Post-primary schools are encouraged to make use of their stock of LFD kits to extend the offer to all pupils in Years 8-11 for the remaining weeks of term. Further stock is available from the Education Authority if required.”
Individuals who receive a positive result from an LFD test will have to isolate along with members of their households from the time of their positive LFD result.
A confirmation PCR test will be required for everyone who tests positive on LFD.
If the PCR test result is negative, the individual and their household can end the isolation period and return to school as normal. If the PCR test result is positive. the individual and their household and all other close contacts should complete a full 10 days of self-isolation.
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