Back to school: What happens if someone in my child's class tests positive for Covid?

As school pupils return to the classroom, many people have been left confused by what will happen if someone in their child’s class tests positive for Covid, under new self-isolation rules brought in this term.

Here, we answer the questions that parents are asking.

Will my child have to self isolate if a classmate tests positive?

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Not necessarily. The old system of ‘class bubbles’ has been scrapped, to be replaced by only very close contacts having to isolate if there is a positive case in a class. Local health authorities will work with schools to identify who these close contacts are, but it could be the person who sits next to the infected child in the classroom, or someone who they have had very close contact through an activity at school.

Only children who are deemed very close contacts of an infected case will have to isolate.

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What happens if my child is deemed a close contact?

Under new regulations, anyone who is under 18 – or is a fully vaccinated adult whose second dose was given longer than two weeks ago – does not have to isolate when deemed a close contact, if they take a PCR Covid test – the kind offered at government testing centres.

If a child is identified as a very close contact of an infected person, they will be asked to stay at home and self-isolate until they have taken a PCR test. If the PCR test is negative, however, they will be allowed to return to school. If they develop symptoms, they must self-isolate and take another PCR test.

Lateral flow tests – the kind available at chemists for free, or available to order online – are not acceptable tests for anyone who is a close contact, or who has symptoms, as they are not completely reliable.

Children under the age of five who are identified as a close contact are exempt from self-isolation. These children are encouraged to take a PCR test, but it is not a requirement to end self-isolation.

What should I do if my child has Covid symptoms?

They must isolate and immediately take a PCR test. The rest of the household must do the same.

If the test is negative, they can return to school once they are feeling well. If the test is positive, you will be contacted by Test and Protect, who will discuss your child’s close contacts.

However, the Delta strain of Covid, which is most prevalent in Scotland, reportedly often has different symptoms to the three standard symptoms listed by the NHS of cough, loss of taste or smell, or fever.

The Zoe Covid symptom tracker app – run by health science company ZOE, with scientific analysis provided by King’s College London – has PCR tests available to be sent to anyone who has another symptom, such as sneezing, or a runny nose, and wants to get tested.

Will my child’s school inform me if there has been a positive case, even if my child is not a close contact?

Yes. The school will inform parents if there has been a positive case.

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