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Schools: Coronavirus

Question for Department for Education

UIN 173181, tabled on 22 March 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, how many false positives from lateral flow tests have been reported by schools; and what recent assessment he has made of the potential merits of changing the guidance to allow a correct negative from a subsequent PCR test to be allowed to reduce the number of pupils being sent home.

Answered on

30 March 2021

The Government has removed confirmatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing for lateral flow tests taken at test sites following advice from Public Health England that, when COVID-19 prevalence rates are high, the performance of lateral flow devices (LFDs) and PCRs are broadly comparable when used at test sites, significantly reducing the need for routine confirmatory testing.

All positive results from rapid tests undertaken at home do need to be confirmed with a standard PCR test. Despite the low risk of false positives, this requirement is in place because tests at home are not conducted in a controlled environment with trained staff. When testing at the home, the individual should report positive, negative and void results to the school/college. If the result is positive, the individual and close contacts should isolate, and the school/college should help with contact tracing. The individual will also need to arrange a PCR test either online or via 119 to confirm the result. If the PCR test is negative, it overrides the LFD home test, and a child can return to school.