Covid Scotland: New lateral flow test for school pupils after uptake as low as 1%

A new type of lateral flow test is set to be brought into schools in the new term, after figures revealed a “lower than expected” uptake in the last academic year.

Schools will be given a new type of test next term, which will return results quicker and, it is hoped, cause less discomfort.

ACON Flowflex lateral flow tests can return results in 15 minutes, and rely only on a nose swab, while the existing tests require both nose and throat.

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Education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville urged all school pupils to begin testing this week, ahead of most council areas returning to school next week.

A student takes a Lateral Flow Test. Picture date: Monday March 8, 2021.

“I would encourage all secondary pupils and school staff to take an at-home test just before returning to school, and regularly thereafter,” she said.

"This is an important step in our efforts to tackle the spread of Covid-19.”

The education secretary also pleaded with pupils and parents to record results, whether positive, negative or void, after recorded uptake levels reached as low as 1 per cent in some areas last term.

“User feedback has informed the development of the testing programme,” Ms Somerville said.

"Consequently, from the start of term, after schools and ELC settings have used up their current stocks, they will be able to place orders for easier-to-use testing kits that deliver results faster.”

All councils have been told about the new tests, the Scottish Government said.

They have been asked to encourage staff and pupils to restart at-home testing the week before they return, including taking a test on the morning of, or evening before, their return and to test regularly thereafter.

The government has also updated its online test reporting portal, allowing household accounts to be created so that parents with more than one child do not need to re-enter data multiple times.

At-home twice-weekly lateral flow testing has been available to school children across Scotland since February and the advice to test will continue once term re-starts after the summer holidays.

But details of the new type of tests have been confirmed as figures from Public Health Scotland revealed uptake of existing tests among older children (S4 to S6) has never reached above 16 per cent, and at some points in some areas dropped to below 1 per cent.

The uptake rate across Scotland dropped from 15.9 per cent in mid March to 11 per cent in mid April.

By the end of May it was at just 5 per cent.

Glasgow city has one of the lowest testing rates, below 2 per cent from the last week of May onwards.

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The rate for the same week in North Lanarkshire was just below 3 per cent, while the Western Isles and North Ayrshire were below 4 per cent.

Uptake and recording of results was “lower than expected in some local authority areas” last term, Scottish Government documents published ahead of the autumn term note.

Discomfort and the amount of time it takes to do the tests were identified as barriers to the process.

A campaign developed with Young Scot will advertise on social media channels this week and next week, encouraging school pupils to check the latest Covid guidance, and to take up and record lateral flow tests.

The Scottish Government guidance states: “The Scottish Government is working in collaboration with Young Scot to deliver two weeks of paid advertising across Young Scot's social media channels (TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, etc) from w/c August 9, encouraging young people to test and record results, and to check for the latest support and guidance on www.young.scot/coronavirus.

"We have worked closely with Young Scot to ensure young people themselves were involved in the design and development of these materials to make them as relevant and engaging as possible.”

The move comes ahead of most schools in Scotland returning for the autumn term next week.

Schools in Angus were the first to go back across Scotland on Wednesday.

Class "bubbles" have been scrapped for the new academic year, but the latest Scottish government guidelines advise staff to continue to avoid assemblies or large groupings of children.

Many of the Covid infection control measures which were present in previous terms will continue, including the use of face coverings for older children.

Staff will still be required to social distance, and there will still be restrictions around drop off and pick up, as well as one-way systems and staggered start and finish times.

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