An asymptomatic testing programme has been put in place by the Scottish Government as part of the package of COVID-19 risk reduction mitigations in schools and Early Learning and Childcare settings across Scotland, including here in the Scottish Borders.
Why are schools/settings participating in the programme?
Along with the other measures in place to keep our school community safe, regular testing of staff and older secondary school pupils will help to further reduce risks for staff and children and young people in our schools.
It will do so by helping to identify asymptomatic individuals at the earliest possible opportunity, and as a result they and their close contacts will self-isolate, therefore minimising the likelihood of them passing on the virus.
Who can take part?
The regular testing is open to all school staff and senior phase secondary school pupils who are regularly attending school. The testing programme also includes school-aged childcare staff and early learning and childcare staff in settings that are attached to schools.
Does everyone have to take part?
Testing is voluntary. No-one will be prevented from coming to school if they do not wish to participate. However, we are strongly encouraging all those eligible to take part to contribute to the wellbeing of our school community.
If staff or pupils are working or learning from home, they should not participate. This is because the programme is intended specifically to reduce risks in the school environment.
What will the testing involve?
Our schools are being provided with a supply of Lateral Flow Device (LFD) test kits by the Scottish Government and the UK Department of Health and Social Care for use at home.
We will give each participating staff member and pupil a supply of these test kits to take home, together with appropriate instructions. We will then ask individuals to test regularly at home, twice a week (every three to four days, ideally in the morning before school).
The tests supplied do not require laboratory processing and can provide a quick result in around 30 minutes. Comprehensive guidance on conducting self-testing will be provided with the test kit. There is a useful video showing participants how to administer the test.
Once the test has been conducted individuals must log the test result, whether positive, negative or void, online.
It is important to note that this regular testing is only for individuals without symptoms. Those with any COVID-19 symptoms must continue to follow the usual guidance and book a test at a test centre or via a home test kit at the earliest opportunity. People with symptoms must not rely on a negative LFD result to continue to attend school.
It is also essential that a negative test result is not taken as leave to relax or ignore physical distancing or other measures intended to reduce transmission.
Are the tests safe and accurate?
LFD tests have been widely and successfully used to detect COVID-19 in asymptomatic individuals. No test is perfect, but the speed and convenience of LFD tests supports detection of the virus in asymptomatic individuals who would not otherwise be tested. They are clinically approved and are crucial in the fight against the virus.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has approved the use of these at-home tests for these purposes.
What happens if I test positive?
If you receives a positive result on your Lateral Flow Device at home, you must report the result online, self-isolate and book a confirmatory test at a test centre or via a different kind of home test kit. This can be done via the government website.
It is important that begin self-isolation immediately after you receive the positive result from the LFD test and do not wait for the outcome of the second test.
What happens if the test result is “void”?
This means the test has not run correctly. Your must report the result online and take another test. Use a new test kit, and do not reuse anything from the first kit.
What if I have been in close contact with someone who tests positive?
If a pupil or member of staff has tested positive, they will have to self-isolate as per government guidelines and inform the school of their absence to support contact tracing activities.
NHS Test and Protect will get in contact with staff members and pupils who were in close contact with a positive case to inform them that they need to self-isolate.
What if I develops COVID-19 symptoms?
This testing programme at school is for people with no symptoms. If you develop symptoms at any time (such as a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or a loss or change to sense of smell or taste) you must immediately self-isolate, and book a test by phoning 0800 028 2816 or visiting the NHS Inform website. People with symptoms must not rely on a negative LFD result to continue to attend school.
Can staff/pupils’ families get tested too?
No, this asymptomatic testing is aimed at staff and senior phase pupils only. The tests will be handed to staff and senior phase pupils for personal use and should not be used for anyone else. Family members of staff or senior phase pupils taking part are not eligible.
If family members experience COVID-19 symptoms, they must follow standard Government guidance, including self-isolating immediately and booking a test.
What if I’ve already tested positive before?
Any person who has had a COVID-19 diagnosis in the previous 90 days is not expected to take a further test unless they develop symptoms, in which case they should stay at home and arrange a test via the usual NHS Inform route.