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Government looking at Covid testing for pupils in England to allow return to school

The Government is looking at how coronavirus testing of school pupils in England could help the return to the classroom, a health minister has confirmed.

Helen Whately said there is “work in progress” after being questioned about reports that parents could be asked to test their children at home twice a week.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There is work being done to look at how testing will help schools come back. But there will be more details set out about that next week.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will outline his “road map” out of lockdown for England on Monday after spending the week analysing data on coronavirus cases, deaths and hospital admissions.

Ms Whately, asked about the Telegraph’s report that parents of secondary school children will be asked to administer rapid flow tests during term time, said: “I’m not going to get drawn into that.”

But she went on: “There is work in progress looking at how testing can support schools to come back.

“There’s already testing going on in schools, where you have children of key workers and teachers in schools at the moment, because schools aren’t completely closed, and there is work going on at the moment about the details of the return to schools, and there will be more said about that next week.”

The devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales have both said they hope to begin phased reopenings of schools after half-term, from February 22.

Ms Whately also said she wants visits to care homes in England to be allowed before residents receive their second dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

She told Sky News: “I really, really want to open up visiting in care homes more.

“To be clear, we have made sure that visiting can continue even during this national lockdown but I recognise it’s not the normal kind of visiting – it’s having to use screens, or visiting pods, or through windows of care homes that don’t have those facilities.

“Also, we have put funding into social care to help care homes have these facilities, and have extra staff if they need to supervise. What I want to do as we come out of the national lockdown is also increase the amount of visiting.

“I don’t see that we have to wait for the second vaccination dose, I want us to open up sooner than that.”

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