Mar 7, 2021 - World

U.K. schools to reopen with mass testing

Illustration of two masked students walking out of a laptop.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Students in the U.K. will return to in-person learning on Monday after being closed for two months.

Why it matters: The British government is reopening schools as the first step to lift all COVID-19 restrictions by June, the AP reports. Students will be tested for the virus frequently, with high schools and colleges to reopen in phases, allowing students to be tested several times before returning to regular classes.

Our thought bubble: Via Axios' Bryan Walsh, the U.K. has led the way in implementing rapid, at-home coronavirus testing. Its schools reopening plan will provide a chance to test the effectiveness of regular testing surveillance on a mass scale.

Driving the news: Nearly 57 million rapid “lateral flow” test kits have been distributed to schools, but there is some concern about false positive tests.

  • “We are being cautious in our approach so that we do not undo the progress we have made so far,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a statement.
  • “[T]he risk of false positives is extremely low, less than 1 in 1,000,” said Susan Hopkins, the COVID-19 strategic response director for Public Health England in an interview with the BBC.

Officials are considering extending school days or adding more days to the term as a way to help students catch up with their education after months of online learning.

Go deeper