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.
Nationals 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.”
It is important to note that use of the RAHT kits will be optional, but close contacts who opt not to undertake the daily tests would need to self-isolate for the full 14 days.
Ms Mitchell has also urged people to let our 160,000 teachers know how important they are.
October 29 is World Teachers’ Day.
“Great teachers are at the heart of our schools and have a significant impact on young peoples’ lives every day,” Ms Mitchell said.
“They have shown this throughout the pandemic with their tireless commitment to their students.
“More than anything, I am delighted that students are now back in the classroom, where they learn best, and able to celebrate World Teachers’ Day in person with their favourite teachers.
“Today I encourage everyone to take the time to recognise a teacher who has made a positive difference to their own life or the life of their child.”