Covid-19 surge testing in schools to protect our community

‘Surge’ testing for new variant first identified in India.

Testing for the B1.167.2 Covid-19 variant of concern, is to take place at school and college sites in Harrow.

This is in addition to the rapid lateral flow testing already taking place and allows us to see if the variant is present in any positive tests.

The variant is spreading in the UK and some areas, including north west London, are more badly affected.

With this in mind, Harrow Council’s priority is to act early to protect our community with this programme of Covid testing.

We aim to test as many young people aged 11 and over as possible before the start of half term on 28 May. We also want parents, carers and other family members to get tested.

Students can test at their school next week. Their families will be asked to test at home or at one of the testing centres across the borough which will all accept asymptomatic testing at the request of the Director of Public Health.

If you have a child in years 11 or 13 and they are not attending school next week, please arrange for you and your family to have a PCR test. For more information, go to harrow.gov.uk/surgetest

By taking part, you will be helping to stop the spread of this new variant and make a full return to normal life more likely in late June.

As many as 1 in 3 people with Covid do not have any symptoms but can still pass it on. So, even though you feel fine, it is very important that you take part.

Everyone else is being encouraged to have rapid lateral flow tests twice weekly. To find out where you can have your test, go to harrow.gov.uk/test

Harrow’s programme of ‘surge’ testing is focusing on the school population, because the data shows that the many households testing positive for it have members in this age group.

Because most young people are unvaccinated and are likely to be asymptomatic, Harrow Council has prioritised this group for testing.

Schools may want to continue with mask wearing as before until they have completed this testing

The council is also encouraging everyone that is eligible (anyone with caring responsibility or with a long-term condition) to get their vaccination as soon as possible.

Vaccination is the best defence against Covid-19, so alongside the NHS, we are working to make it quicker and easier to get fully protected.

We are also working with Public Health England and other councils in our region, which are leading their own efforts to control the spread of the variant. 

How testing will work

We are asking pupils and their family members to take a single additional test next week (called a PCR test).

Home testing is quick and easy. Residents should follow the guidance carefully – it is important to register your kit online. If you do not, you won’t get your result back.

The way you carry out the test is by a swab – exactly the same as the way you have already been doing if you test regularly.

With the PCR test, the sample you take will be collected by us and sent to a laboratory to see if its negative or positive.

You will get your results to the number or email address that you give when the kit is registered.

If the test is positive, the sample will be sent for more analysis to find out if it is a variant of concern.

Anyone taking a test will be told within two or three days if they have tested positive or negative but will not receive information about the presence of the variant.

If you test positive, you must self-isolate with your family to prevent Covid spreading to others. Financial support for some people is available, see harrow.gov.uk/testandtrace.

Carole Furlong, Director of Public Health, said:

“It is vital that we carry out this additional testing to quickly identify people with positive tests. 

We are testing for variants of concern, such as the B1.167.2 as we know it to more transmissible than the usual virus.

There is no difference in what you have to do if you test positive – you and your household still need to isolate for 10 days. 

Our number one priority is to protect our community by stopping the spread of Covid-19, which is why we are carrying out this programme of ‘surge’ testing.

Please make sure you follow the guidelines carefully so we can stop the spread.”

Cllr Graham Henson, Leader of Harrow Council, said:

“It is so important we stop the spread of Covid-19, especially variants of concern.

This ‘surge’ testing is vital in our battle against the virus and adherence to the programme will protect our residents and, by taking part, you will be helping to stop the spread of this new variant and make a full return to normal life more likely in late June.

“It is also of very important for everyone to keep getting tested and to get vaccinated when you are invited to do so.”

Professor Kevin Fenton, London Regional Director for Public Health England, said:

“Following close monitoring of cases across London of the variant of concern first identified in India, we have decided to take early preventative action in five North West London boroughs.

Surge testing was announced for Hounslow earlier this week and we are now also mobilising surge testing in targeted settings and areas in Brent, Ealing, Harrow and Hillingdon.

“Rates of Covid-19 in London remain low overall but variant cases are present in many parts of the city.

As such, we are continuously assessing situations on a local, sub-regional and city-wide level so we can act early and decisively to prevent cases from spreading.

“If you are asked to come forward for a PCR test as part of the effort in these areas, please get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.

If your test is positive, self-isolate immediately and engage with contact tracers to help stop the spread of variants in the local community.

“If everyone plays their part by continuing to follow the public health advice in their local area, and getting vaccinated when invited, we can break chains of transmission and keep all of London safe.”

Published: 20th May 2021