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Testing in North East London, Kent and Essex: your questions answered

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Yesterday (10 Dec), the Health Secretary announced that hundreds of thousands of tests will be offered to secondary school and college age children in a targeted effort to drive down rapidly rising cases. Mobile testing units will be used in areas across north east London, parts of Essex and parts of Kent to test secondary school and college aged children and young people, their families, and school and college staff.

Why are you doing this? And why these areas and not tier 3 areas?

The aim is to combat a rapid increase in cases among the 11-18 age group by identifying asymptomatic cases and helping to break chains of transmission.

Because the Department of Health and Social Care is now seeing sudden increases in covid-19 incidents in these areas, this testing programme has been set up to stop the spread amongst secondary school and college age children and to gather information about the transmission of the coronavirus among 11-18-year-olds. The testing programme is not directly linked to cases in schools or colleges, which have put in place protective measures to reduce the risk of transmission.

It will help identify asymptomatic cases – those who have the virus but don’t show any symptoms like a cough or a temperature – meaning they can isolate and avoid inadvertently spreading it.

So does this mean all young secondary school and college aged students in these areas will be tested?

We want to make sure as many young people as possible in these areas get tested and the extra mobile testing units are being set up to make this easier. Tests aren’t compulsory but we strongly urge every student, parent and school and college staff in these areas to come forward as ultimately the more people take the tests, the better able we are to contain the virus.

People in these areas can use existing routes – so by booking appointments or home testing kits online or by calling 119 – as well as the mobile testing units.

What age group does this cover?

We are encouraging all children and young people from the age of 11 up to and including the age of 18 in these areas to get a test to help combat a rapid increase in cases among this age group by identifying asymptomatic cases and helping to break chains of transmission.

Should children/students return to their place of education before they get their test result?

Yes. Once pupils and students have been tested, as long as they have no symptoms, they should continue to attend their place of education while awaiting the result of their test.

Will teachers be testing pupils in schools?

No. The mobile testing units will be set up in or near schools and colleges and they will be run by NHS Test and Trace.

I live in one of the areas but no-one in my family has any symptoms – do we need to get tested?

If you have secondary school or college aged students in your family then we would like every member of your family to be tested irrespective of having symptoms.

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What are the areas that will be getting extra testing units and how many will there be?

In London

An additional 44,000 home test kits will be made available for school staff including teachers to test before returning in January.

An additional 15 mobile testing units will be deployed in or near schools for staff, students and their families to be tested, providing approximately 75,000 additional tests over and above existing test sites in the capital.

London boroughs receiving additional testing are:

  • Barking and Dagenham
  • Hackney and the City
  • Havering
  • Newham
  • Redbridge
  • Tower Hamlets
  • Waltham Forest

In Essex

An additional 10 mobile testing units will be deployed.

Essex boroughs receiving additional testing are:

  • Southend
  • Basildon
  • Basildon
  • Canvey Island
  • Harlow
  • Brentwood
  • Harlow
  • Southend

In Kent

An additional 12 mobile testing units will be deployed.

Kent boroughs receiving additional testing are:

  • Swale
  • Thanet
  • Maidstone
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