New 90-minute virus tests will be rolled out in schools, Matt Hancock confirms

Danielle Sheridan
·2-min read
Testing at schools could be carried out in 90 minutes  - Barry Batchelor
Testing at schools could be carried out in 90 minutes - Barry Batchelor

A new 90-minute virus testing regime will be rolled out in schools, Matt Hancock has confirmed. 

The Health Secretary said the two tests, which can detect coronavirus and flu and promise results in 90 minutes, were "a big step forward in terms of how quickly we're going to be able to get tests”. 

"These technologies which deliver these rapid turnaround tests will mean that we can expand testing capacity further and into settings where, for instance, in schools, currently we have survey testing, so we have some testing, that would be able to be expanded,” he told BBC News.

"We're on track to deliver half a million tests a day by the end of October, but new technologies, like these two, will help us to accelerate that.” 

Mr Hancock added that this meant a greater number of people were “going to be able to get tested more quickly so we can find out where the virus is and tackle it and keep those rates of infection down”.

Nadhim Zahawi, the business and industry minister, reiterated that the new 90-minute tests could be used in schools, when he said that they could “be rolled out to other settings, including schools”. 

He added that the tests “can be administered without someone having technical abilities or technical know-how”.  "There is a plan already for schools, and we're going to have children back at school, September 1,” Mr Zahawi added.

"This is a further enhancement of our capabilities, and as we roll this out we will obviously be looking at other settings, including schools, to roll it out into."

It comes as Downing Street confirmed that schools will reopen "for all pupils in all year groups" in England at the start of the autumn term.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "You've heard from the Prime Minister on many occasions his absolute commitment to getting children back into school in September and that's vital for their education and their development.

"We are planning for all pupils in all year groups to be in school full-time from the beginning of the autumn term."

He cautioned that "hypothetically" some schools might not reopen straight away "if there was to be a very specific localised lockdown that requires a single school to close".

Any localised approach would involve an assessment of “the situation on the ground and take whatever steps were required to slow the spread of the virus”.

However Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT, the teachers’ union,  said over the weekend that ministers would still have to convince staff and parents that it is safe to reopen schools next month, after unions were accused by MPs of “breathing fear into parents” during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic that schools were “death traps”.