MORE than 20,000 Southampton school pupils and staff are set to be be given a no-swab coronavirus test as part of a pioneering new scheme.

Widespread testing for coronavirus using a simple, home-based saliva test is to be trialled within educational settings in the city.

A partnership between the University of Southampton, Southampton City Council and NHS is entering the second phase of a programme to evaluate large scale testing.

It is hoped the new kind of testing will avoid wholesale or long-term closures due to outbreaks.

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Samples will be collected from participants on a regular basis with results returned no more than 48 hours later.

Over 20,000 students, pupils and staff from University of Southampton and the four schools will be invited to participate in the programme.

Professor Keith Godfrey of the University of Southampton said: “We aim to give pupils, parents and staff confidence in the management of infection risk in schools.”

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The details of those who test positive will be shared with the NHS Test and Trace programme so contact tracing can start immediately.

Harry Kutty, Headteacher at Cantell Secondary School and Chair of the Aspire Community Trust who represents the schools involved in this phase of the trial, commented: “We’re really excited to be part of this innovative trial. Getting schools open and running safely and smoothly is our number one priority and anything that could potentially help give parents, teachers and staff confidence and avoid wholesale closures has to be a good thing. Hopefully what we learn as early adopters can help to develop this programme to be available to more schools and other settings in future.”

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Councillor Christopher Hammond, Leader of Southampton City Council, said: “Regular testing is a vital tool to help us manage the risk of Covid-19 infection in our communities. Thanks to the thousands of Southampton residents who took part in the first phase of this trial, we now have a much greater understanding of the potential for this promising new saliva test. The second phase will help us to better understand how the test can be rolled out across different types of school and university settings as they reopen this Autumn. If we are successful, we hope to offer the testing programme to more settings in the near future.”

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Professor Godfrey added: “Those taking part will help pave the way for wider regular testing across educational, community.”