200,000 schoolchildren off due to Covid-19 as universal provision of free testing to be stopped

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi says more information on the provision of tests will be announced next week

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Some 200,000 children are off school due to Covid-19 according to Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi as he promises to deliver more details on rapid testing next week.

The staggering stat comes as the Government says free tests will only be available to the most vulnerable.

Mr Zahawi said: “We will say a bit more about testing on April 1 of course as to what the policy is.”

He said told BBC’s Sunday Morning programme “around 200,000” children are off school currently because of coronavirus.

Students during an English Literature class at St Andrew's RC Secondary School in Glasgow
Students during an English Literature class at St Andrew's RC Secondary School in Glasgow
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi

The Conservative MP continued: “It has ticked up a little bit because infection rates are high but if we have not broken, we have weakened the link between infection rates and severe infection and hospitalisation because of the vaccination,” he said.

There has been confusion within the NHS as to whether tests will remain free for staff, with the NHS Confederation saying workers may be forced to pay about £50 a month if they have to fund the mandatory tests themselves, as it called for clarity over the issue.

As infection levels in the Uk near record highs, it is announced more than 600,000 people will be invited for a Covid-19 booster jab next week.

Around one in 16 people in private households in England – or 3.5 million people – are likely to have had Covid in the week to March 19, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This is up from one in 20, or 2.7 million people, in the previous week and is the third week in a row that infections are estimated to have risen.