Daily testing of Covid contacts in schools drastically reduces staff and pupil absences without increasing infections, a study suggests.
The policy proved just as effective at preventing outbreaks as sending home an entire ‘bubble’ for ten days when someone tested positive.
Fewer than one close contact in 50 was infected under either regime, researchers from Oxford University say.
But daily testing was significantly less disruptive to children’s education and could reduce days lost to self-isolation by 39 per cent, the scientists said. NHS Test and Trace said the study was ‘trailblazing’ for showing daily testing can safely keep pupils in class.
It comes after official figures showed a record 1.05million children were absent from school for Covid-related reasons last week.
The policy proved just as effective at preventing outbreaks as sending home an entire ‘bubble’ for ten days when someone tested positive (file photo)
The researchers analysed data on 201 secondary schools and colleges in England. From April to June, half of schools sent all contacts home for ten days and half allowed them to continue attending if they had a negative rapid test each day.
Dr David Eyre, who worked on the study, said: ‘Daily testing was able to identify most of the small number that do [test positive], which allowed them to safely isolate at home, while allowing the large majority of other students and staff to remain in school.’
Close contacts also took a PCR test on day two and seven following contact.
Fewer than one close contact in 50 was infected under either regime, researchers from Oxford University say (file photo)
Just 1.5 per cent of contacts in the ‘daily testing’ schools had a positive PCR compared with 1.6 per cent of the other group. It means more than 98 per cent of contacts did not get Covid in isolation and suggests daily contact testing may slightly reduce transmission.
Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser for NHS Test and Trace, called the findings ‘a major breakthrough’. The study, backed by the Department of Health and Department for Education, is not yet peer reviewed.
÷ Fears of continued disruption prompted the Government to keep its free online school open. The Oak National Academy will teach pupils at home for two more terms.