Coronavirus: Jeremy Hunt calls for weekly COVID-19 testing for secondary school teachers

Secondary school teachers should be tested weekly for coronavirus, a former health secretary has said.

Jeremy Hunt, who now chairs the health and social care committee, told Sky News that regular COVID-19 tests would help reassure parents.

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The senior Conservative MP was speaking as pupils in England and Wales continue to return to the classroom for the start of the autumn term amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“My children are primary school age and the risk seems to be higher in secondary schools,” he told the Kay Burley programme.

“I’m one of the people who would like the government to introduce weekly testing for all secondary school teachers, just to give that extra bit of reassurance.

“I hope when we get the testing capacity up we will do that.”

Speaking in the Commons on Tuesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who succeeded Mr Hunt in July 2018, said: “It’s my intention to deploy as much testing as possible using the new testing innovations that are coming on-stream and to deploy it as widely as possible following clinical advice.

“We’ve set out the process that we propose to use for the current generation of testing capability but if a new, easier type of test gets over the line then, of course, we’ll always keep that under clinical review and guided by the clinicians.”

The UK’s chief medical officers have warned that children are more at risk of long-term harm if they do not go back to school than if they return.

They said that children have an “exceptionally low risk of dying” from the disease, and “very few, if any” children and teenagers would come to long-term harm from COVID-19 solely by attending school.

A Public Health England study released last month said secondary schools “appear to experience wider transmission and larger outbreaks than schools for younger students” and the “risk of infection, disease and transmission is likely to be higher in older than younger children”.

For many pupils going back this week, it will be their first time in the classroom since March, when schools closed except for vulnerable children and those of key workers.

A recent survey of school leaders by the National Association of Head Teachers found that 97% plan to reopen their schools to all pupils this term.

The remaining 3% said they were planning transition periods for new pupils or phasing entry to lessen the worries of students and parents.

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