Free lateral flow covid tests for parents of primary and secondary school children in Kent and Medway
As part of efforts to keep the virus under control with the return of face-to face lessons, families living with school or college pupils are being asked to commit to regular testing.
Under government plans to reopen schools, which began on Monday (March 8), secondary school and college students are now being tested twice a week - receiving three initial lateral flow tests at school under guidance before moving to home testing.
Primary school teachers and staff are also expected to test themselves but ministers decided against regular asymptomatic testing of primary school-aged pupils because of low levels of transmission amongst those age groups.
But The Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed that free twice-weekly testing, using lateral flow tests, is now being offered free to all families with primary, secondary school or college-aged children living with them.
This also extends to childcare bubbles and support bubbles who are connected to households with children and young people.
With around a third of individuals with coronavirus showing no symptoms, the DHSC says regular testing of pupils' parents will mean more positive cases within households are found and consequently prevented from entering schools and colleges.
The rapid tests give almost-instant results, detecting cases in under 30 minutes.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson explained: "Testing family members will provide yet another layer of reassurance to parents and education staff that schools are as safe as possible, building on the massive increase in testing for secondary school and college students, and strengthened requirements around face coverings in areas where social distancing cannot be maintained."
As with student testing, the testing of parents is strongly encouraged but it is not mandatory.
A secondary PCR test will be required for positive lateral flow tests which are taken at home, either through at home PCR testing or at a local PCR testing site, to confirm the result of the rapid test.
How to take a test
Those parents and households - without symptoms - wishing to join the expanding testing regime can now book twice-weekly tests through their workplace if testing there exists, take the tests at local authority test sites by making regular appointments or by collecting home-testing kits from local PCR testing sites during specific test collection time windows.
A new home ordering service, which will allow parents to order lateral flow tests online to be delivered to their home, is also being set up for those unable to get to a testing site to either complete a test or pick up a kit.
Professor Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, said: "These rapid tests help uncover hidden cases of the virus and break chains of transmission, stopping outbreaks before they occur. Combined with other protective measures, they are a vital tool to help us lower infection rates and ensure that they stay low.
"I would encourage all eligible households to take up the offer of twice weekly rapid testing – it’s quick and painless and could help save lives."
For more information on symptom-free testing in Kent and booking an appointment, click here.
Parents wishing to order tests because they can't get to an asymptomatic testing centre should click here.