Politics

Matt Hancock unveils new mass testing plan in schools as Covid cases rise across UK

Matt Hancock warns UK 'don’t blow it’ as COVID cases rise

Secondary school children in parts of London, Essex and Kent will be given the chance to take a rapid lateral flow test, which gives results in half an hour. It is hoped the mass testing strategy will help bring down the soaring number of infections in those areas.

Mr Hancock described the infection rate in the capital, Essex and Kent as “of concern”.

The Health Secretary said action needed to be taken now in order to curb the number of infections among young people before it spreads to the elderly and vulnerable.

He said at a Downing Street briefing this evening: “I’m particularly concerned about the number of cases in London, Kent and Essex. Cases are rising and in many areas are already high.

“Looking into the detail, the testing results and survey shows us that by far the fastest rise is among secondary school age children 11-18 years old, while the rate among adults in London is broadly flat.

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“But we know from experience that a sharp rise in case in younger people can lead to a rise among more vulnerable age groups later.

“We need to do everything we can to stop the spread among school age children in London right now – we must not wait until the review, which will take place on December 16. We need to take targeted action immediately.”

In London, there were 191.8 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 people in the week to December 6, up from 158.1 in the previous week.

Essex and Kent have also seen their infection rates rise.

One Tory MP has even said to have called for schools in London to shut completely, similar to in Wales, in order to reduce the number of infections.

Health Minister Helen Whately said she would “take it away” and look into the idea.

However, Mr Hancock was clear this evening he wants to do everything possible to avoid shutting schools.

He said: “We want to keep schools open because that is both right for education and for public health.

“We are therefore surging mobile testing units and will be working with schools and local authorities to encourage these children and their families to get tested over the coming days. More details will be set out tomorrow.

“I want to urge all those involved to step forward for the testing.

“It is important that 11-18 years olds get tested in these boroughs, irrespective of whether they have symptoms.”

More to follow…

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