Rapid antigen home tests to reduce school disruption

Students and staff in Albury will be part of a COVID testing pilot that starts on Monday.

The NSW Government is trialling Rapid Antigen Home Testing (RAHT) kits to reduce disruption at schools and halve the time close contacts need to isolate.

Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning Sarah Mitchell said a pilot program of the test kits would begin in Albury next week.

“I want to see disruption to our students’ education from COVID reduce, while still keeping schools safe places to learn. This requires us to deploy every tool available to balance the risk,” Ms Mitchell said.

“We will be trialling the tests in two ways: a broad surveillance approach, along with close contact testing to reduce initial positive cases on school sites and reduce the amount of time close contact students need to spend away from school.”

The surveillance method will see the kits distributed by schools for use at home by staff and students, who are asked to do a test twice a week as part of community surveillance.

“People with a positive result would need to follow up with a regular (PCR) test at a NSW Health testing centre and those who test negative will go on with their normal day-to-day routines assured that they are not infected or at risk of spreading the virus,” Ms Mitchell said.

Unvaccinated students who are close contacts of a positive case will also be able to reduce their isolation time by using the kits on a daily basis.

“NSW Health has advised us that close contacts of COVID positive cases will have their isolation period halved to seven days provided they receive a consistent negative result,” Ms Mitchell said.

“This is about living with a virus and getting back to normal life while ensuring the community is confident in their safety on school sites.

“Our best line of defence against this pandemic remains vaccinations, and until all students are eligible for one we must continue using measures like RAHT kits to keep schools safe.”

Member for Albury Justin Clancy said this was an incredibly challenging period for the community of Albury and any opportunity to minimise disruption for students was welcome.

“While this is a tough time for our community, I’m hopeful this new testing regime will reduce disruption for students and families in the area,” Mr Clancy said.

A positive rapid antigen test doesn’t mean an individual necessarily has COVID-19, it means they need to get a standard (PCR) test straight away to confirm the result.

It is important to note that use of the RAHT kits will be optional, but close contacts who opted not to undertake the daily tests would need to self-isolate for the full 14 days.

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