Staff and students at Ringwood School are to be screened regularly for COVID-19.
The school has been invited by NHS Test and Trace and the University of Oxford to join a small number of schools in the region that are taking part in urgent research to finalise the effectiveness of a new, minimally-invasive, screening test for COVID-19. The school will be working closely with scientists at Public Health England, Porton Down.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, scientists have been working hard to identify a quick, easy and reliable test for COVID-19 that can provide results much more quickly and effectively than the current NHS test. If it is shown to work successfully, it may become the standard test that all schools use both to identify whether members of a school community are infectious or, as importantly, give reassurance that they are COVID-free at the point in time that the test is taken.
The test can be carried out regularly and return results in a very short space of time. Similar tests are being finalised that could be used in universities, workplaces, airports, and sports matches.
After months spent narrowing down the best options, the scientists have asked Ringwood School, along with some other schools, to be part of a trial to see how well their test works within a school setting; how easy it is to use and how effectively it can be run across large numbers of people in a short space of time.
The test itself uses a nasal swab. The process of testing involves a soft cotton bud being rubbed around the inside of the nostril three or four times. It is very quick and will not be uncomfortable.
Public Health England recommends this approach because they think it will be easier for people to do than a throat swab, while still being effective. If a test result is positive – either a strong positive or two consecutive weak positives – a further additional swab sample will be taken for further testing using a ‘gold standard’ PCR test. This will be sent to Public Health England’s laboratories whilst the person and their household isolate in line with government guidance whilst they await the result and further guidance.
For staff and students identified as a close contact of a positive case, it is now possible to offer an alternative to self-isolation for those taking part in the pilot. As long as the close contacts have tested negative on the same day as the positive case; have no symptoms and agree to be retested at least every two days for a period of 14 days they can stay in school.
Testing is planned to begin at the school on Thursday 26 November with staff and sixth form volunteers.
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