The UK government has announced secondary school pupils in England will have to be tested for Covid-19 before classes restart.

All secondary school students in England will be required to test negative for Covid before the new term begins, as the UK government seeks to limit the spread of Omicron amid soaring infections.

Kits will be provided to schools to allow students to continue testing twice weekly going forward in the hope of detecting any infected individuals before they cause an outbreak.

The new testing regime in England will see the nation join Scotland and Northern Ireland, where students are already expected to test twice per week. In Wales, the government has gone further, calling on staff and pupils to test three times a week before the new term.

Discussing the new measures, Health Secretary Sajid Javid called regular testing “a key way to support schools and protect face-to-face teaching.” It comes as officials seek to alleviate concerns that the spread of the Omicron variant could prevent in-person teaching from going ahead in the new term.

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Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said on Sunday that teachers and pupils would be required to wear face coverings in schools when the new term starts, increasing Covid-19 safety measures.

In a Twitter thread, he laid out the government’s efforts to protect educational establishments from the Omicron variant, including testing, face masks, increased ventilation, temporarily boosting the workforce, and vaccinations. 

Despite the added Covid measures on schools, the UK government continues to argue that the data and scientific advice does not justify further national restrictions. England and Wales recorded 137,583 new Covid cases on Sunday. Data from Scotland and Northern Ireland has been delayed due to the bank holiday weekend.

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