Coronavirus Testing in Schools and Parental Consent
Parental consent is still needed, just like with any medical intervention
Consent has published a template letter for parents wishing to decline
Mass testing is not supported by evidence and not recommended by the World Health Organisation, the UK’s national screening committee, MHRA or SAGE
Since the return to school on January 4th pupils attending have been asked to undergo regular Lateral Flow testing in the attempt to trace infection, keep schools open and regain public confidence. Consent has today published a template letter for parents who do not wish to consent to this intervention. Currently, only children of key workers and those with special needs attend schools physically. A date for general re-opening has not been set.
The Government and the Department for Education have fully supported this program and schools have made arrangements and enlisted volunteers at record speed. Schools and teaching unions, however, have been concerned that it will keep a higher number of potentially infectious pupils in schools.
The use of the Innova Lateral Flow tests to regularly test asymptomatic people has not been supported by the MHRA, the UK National screening Committee, the WHO or SAGE. This is at least in part because the evidence is against mass asymptomatic testing in schools, which fails to detect sufficient numbers of real Covid cases while producing false positives at the same time. The Liverpool pilot showed that these tests missed half of Covid 19 cases otherwise picked up by PCR but testing people without symptoms also means that most positives are false, leading to unnecessary impact on schools and families – a worst possible outcome.
Therein lies the conflict and confusion between the current self-isolation rules following close-contact with a confirmed positive case and the idea of making an exception for schools via regular mass testing. Parents who feel it is unsafe to return to school are left still afraid while those more worried about emotional and mental health or economic consequences see themselves impacted by false positive tests.
Consent feels that full information to a procedure or medicine must be shared, including risks and benefits, in guidance with UK GMC and PHE consent guidelines. In terms of risks of harm, it must also be mentioned that physical injury can, although rarely, occur with any swab reaching deep into the nasal cavity and that several UK contracts of Covid tests had to be recalled due to either contamination with Covid or because they were not sterile. The above relates to PCR tests and time will tell how lateral flow tests do in comparison.