The Welsh Government has announced plans to roll out “serial Covid-19 testing” in schools and colleges from January.
Under this process, pupils and staff identified as close contacts would be asked to either self-isolate as normal or to take a lateral flow test at the start of the school day for the duration of the self-isolation period.
Those who test negative would continue attending school as normal, those who test positive would be required to self-isolate and book a confirmatory test.
Schools and colleges will be offered support, equipment and training. All staff working in special schools will be offered weekly testing.
Education Minister Kirsty Williams said: “Throughout this pandemic our priority has been to deliver maximum learning with as minimal disruption as possible.
“The plans we are announcing today will play an integral role in delivering on that priority.
“We recognise that it has not been easy for pupils and staff who have been required to self-isolate as a result of having been identified as a ‘close contact’ and we recognise the impact it has had on face-to-face teaching.
“Earlier this month we announced the reduction in the period of time for which a person needs to self-isolate from 14 days to 10 days.
“Following discussions with Public Health Wales and the Children and Schools Technical Advisory Cell, we are pleased to confirm that we will introduce a serial testing programme in schools and further education settings in the new year.”
Lateral flow testing detects the presence of the Covid-19 viral antigen from a swab sample.
LFTs are handheld devices which produce results within 20 to 30 minutes, with the potential to be self-administered.
Minister for Health and Social Services Vaughan Gething added: “The lessons we have learnt from using LFTs in pilots in higher education institutions across Wales and secondary schools in Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf will help inform how we can successfully deliver lateral flow testing in schools and other education settings in the future.
“It is vital everyone understands that testing alone cannot eradicate the risks associated with contracting and transmitting Covid-19.
“Testing helps to mitigate the risk but it needs to be taken alongside other infection prevention control measures, including appropriate social distancing and hand hygiene measures.
“We are grateful to everyone in the sector who has worked hard to make sure these measures are in place.”
The Welsh Government intends to roll out testing to all schools and further education settings, including primary and childcare staff.
However, in order to ensure there is a model that works and is safe, the roll out will be phased on levels of risk starting with secondary schools and further education settings.