AS schools in Wales re-open this week Plaid Cymru Shadow Health Minister, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, has said there should be regular, significant Coronavirus testing in schools.
Mr ap Iorwerth said it “just makes sense” for the testing capacity to be used to help ensure our school settings remain safe to be opened fully.
Adding that “if it’s important enough for our footballers, it should be important enough for our teachers, students and everyone who works in our schools.”
With Public Health Wales data showing an increase in new cases last week and with a warning “Coronavirus is still circulating in the community” issued as pupils return to school,
Mr ap Iorwerth has said the “only way to be sure of the full picture” is to test in schools as widely as possible. This is especially important as people often display no or very mild symptoms.
Currently, swab tests are only available for members of the public in Wales with symptoms of coronavirus, with the exception of care home settings.
Recommendations from a recent report by the Royal Society DELVE Initiative include “implementing an effective monitoring regime…including broad surveillance, linked to an effective, sufficiently scaled and rapid test-trace-isolate system.” This report has led to the Children’s Commissioner in England calling for teachers and pupils in England to have weekly tests.
Premier League footballers received twice-weekly tests throughout May – July and regular testing is expected to continue when the league restarts. The testing regime has been very effective in finding positive cases where the person displayed no symptoms.
Rhun ap Iorwerth added,
“Testing has been available for everyone in Wales who displays symptoms of coronavirus for some time. However, we know that children – and many adults – often display no or mild symptoms, so the only way to be sure of the full picture is if testing capacity is used as much as possible to bring possible cases and clusters to light.
“Schools are the new unknown. Given that it is so important for them to remain open and safe for everyone in them, it just makes sense to use the testing capacity in Wales to provide reassurance to teachers, parents and pupils alike that we have a complete picture of where coronavirus might be circulating.
“This is especially important as people return from a holiday into school settings, amid reports that there is an increased risk of transmission from holidays to certain locations.
“It’s important that the Welsh Government gives us a programme of ‘broad surveillance’ – they should start in areas where coronavirus is known to be circulating, they should test as widely as possible, and regular sampling should start now, as pupils return to schools.
“If regular testing is deemed important enough for our footballers, then it should be important enough for our teachers, students and everyone who works in our schools.”