RAPID testing will be available for older secondary school pupils when they return to school or college.
This is an extension by the Welsh Government of the rapid testing that was announced on February 5 for staff working in all registered childcare settings, schools and further education.
Health minister Vaughan Gething and education minister Kirsty Williams made the announcement this afternoon – Monday, February 22.
It will mean that lateral flow tests will be given to pupils in years 11-13, as well as all further education college learners and learners on work-based apprenticeship and traineeship programmes, twice a week.
In a statement, the ministers said: “Learners of this age group are, on the whole, significantly less likely to become unwell from Covid-19; however symptomatic prevalence data suggests that this age group are more likely to test positive than younger teenagers and there is evidence to suggest that older secondary aged pupils may transmit the virus to the same level as adults.
“We will continue to be led by the latest scientific advice and so this testing offer will be regularly reviewed to ensure that we are including the right people in the offer in order to meet the intended outcomes.
“We intend to make these tests available to all those who are eligible in line with the next phase of return to face-to-face learning, which if infection rates allow will be from March 15 onwards and will work diligently with our partners and stakeholders to make this a reality.”
Those who test positive with these rapid tests will be told to self-isolate, and the data will help provide a clearer picture of what is happening in Welsh schools and settings, identify those unknowingly carrying the virus and reassure the wider community.
The ministers said that it is recognised that this asymptomatic testing will likely lead to an increase in case rates initially, but this is likely to decline once those positive cases have been identified, isolated and the chains of transmission broken.
They also reiterate that there is no evidence to suggest widespread transmission in schools and colleges but have no way of knowing where transmission may occur outside of the regulated classroom environment.
They end the statement stressing that testing alone won’t lower the risks associated with Covid-19.
The ministers said: “No test is perfect and negative tests cannot be the only means of assurance that infection is not spread.
“Testing helps to mitigate the risk, but anyone included in the testing offer should continue to adhere to other more effective infection prevention control measures such as appropriate social distancing and good hand hygiene measures.
“We are grateful to everyone in the sector who has worked so hard to make sure protective measures are in place and to the children and young people who have adapted to the new arrangements and are playing their part in keeping us all safe.”