Schools testing loophole that has forced thousands to isolate will not apply in Scotland

Parents in Scotland have been reassured that a loophole in England that has forced thousands of pupils to isolate unnecessarily following positive lateral flow tests in school will not apply north of the border – and have been urged to keep their children in the testing programme.

Many parents in England have withdrawn their children from the voluntary testing scheme following reports of families forced to isolate after their teenagers received a false positive result for coronavirus on a rapid test administered at school.

Despite testing negative on a follow-up PCR test, which is regarded as far more accurate than the lateral flow devices used in schools and workplaces, the pupils have been told by public health officials they – and everyone in their households – need to isolate for ten days.

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The Scottish Government told The Scotsman the same rules would not apply in Scotland where any positive lateral flow tests recorded at school will be followed up by a PCR test and, if negative, the child will be able to return to school and the family can end their self-isolation.

A member of staff wearing PPE processes a student's Innova lateral flow Covid-19 test, in the Sports Hall at Park Lane Academy in Halifax, northwest England.
A member of staff wearing PPE processes a student's Innova lateral flow Covid-19 test, in the Sports Hall at Park Lane Academy in Halifax, northwest England.

Estimates have put the false-positive rate for the rapid tests around 0.1 per cent. However, with four million children in England returning to the classroom this week, that could means thousands of families will unnecessarily have to isolate.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Twice-weekly at-home asymptomatic testing is offered to eligible pupils using lateral flow device (LFD) tests. If a pupil gets a positive LFD test, they should self-isolate and take a confirmatory PCR test.

“If the PCR test is negative, individuals will be contacted by Test and Protect, who will advise them on what to do next. In most cases this will involve ending self-isolation and returning to school, provided the individual continues to have no symptoms.”

The spokeswoman added: “Asymptomatic testing is important as it can identify cases of coronavirus that would otherwise not be picked up and by doing so, break chains of transmission. The schools testing programme is voluntary but we would encourage all eligible staff and pupils to take part wherever possible. It will help protect them, their school community and their families.”

Pupils at Sydney Russell School, Dagenham, east London queue up to be tested for Covid-19 as pupils in England return to school for the first time in two months as part of the first stage of lockdown easing.

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