School staff feel safer with Covid test roll-out

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Testing Times: Caroline Taylor taking the lateral flow test

Teachers and school staff are feeling safer in the workplace due to the roll out of the voluntary asymptomatic Covid-19 testing in schools.

The Department for Education announced the scheme at the end of January to help identify asymptomatic coronavirus cases to further reduce the spread of the virus from schools into the community.

The programme uses lateral flow device tests which are clinically proven and are successful in identifying these cases. According to the guide, the tests are to be taken twice a week, leaving a three-to-four-day gap in between the two tests. The individual is to then log the test results via the website, as well as report it to their respective school.

Caroline Taylor, the Head Midday Supervisor at Our Lady of Pity Primary School in Greasby, has been taking part in the scheme for three weeks and says it is providing more comfort when working: “I definitely feel safer around the adults thanks to the tests.

“I’m still having to remind the children to about keeping their distance, but because my risk assessment says I’m not allowed inside with them, I do feel pretty safe.

“There are only key worker children allowed in the school at the moment, as well as bubbles being formed with teaching staff and the children, which no one is allowed to burst, that also adds to the safety of the workplace.”

Kitted Out: Test kits are provided to school staff

Ms Taylor added that while taking the test feels strange, it is raising awarness among staff: “It’s a good idea. It makes us more aware if we have symptoms. It also makes us aware of other symptoms other than just the commonly known three.

“I was nervous when I had to take the first test, about the sensation in the back of my throat. But now I’m used to it, it isn’t too bad. The only uncomfortable part is up the nose as it makes my eyes water.”

Kate Valentine, an infant teacher at Heygarth Primary School, has also welcomed the testing scheme but would prefer it to be made manadatory for all school workers.

She said: “I feel safe in my very small bubble with adults that I know are using the testing scheme. However, it is not compulsory so that makes me feel less safe. Because it’s confidential as to who is and isn’t, it is not easy to be 100 per cent confident around other adults.

“As the children are also not tested, and there is no way of knowing how seriously their families are taking it all, that is also a cause for concern.

“I would recommend people take part. I feel happier knowing that I’m not spreading it.”

Recently, there has been further encouragement for people to get Covid-19 tests due to the recent spike of cluster cases of the E484K mutation appearing in the Liverpool City Region.

Julie Webster, director of public health for the Wirral, said: “Wirral’s infection rates have fallen since we went into lockdown in early January, but they are still high, and we need to do everything we can to further reduce the numbers and stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community.

“The virus is constantly changing, and it is important we change with it to adapt our approach and keep people safe.

“We have widened the set of symptoms eligible for testing at our symptoms-only testing centres.

“We cannot be complacent with our approach to COVID-19 and must do all we can to keep ourselves and each other safe.”

Mrs Taylor also agreed that more people should take part, but that it is a personal decision: “You can’t force someone to take part. For me, it’s good to know that I haven’t got the virus, both for my co-workers and my family, so it makes everyone feel more secure.”

About Sarah Taylor