SYMPTOM-FREE testing played a “key role” in reducing the spread of Covid-19 in Southampton schools, data has shown.

Prior to Easter, symptom-free Lateral Flow Tests detected nearly half the confirmed Covid-19 cases in Southampton’s education settings.

Between March 8, when the majority of pupils returned to school, and the end of term on April 1, there were 142 confirmed cases of Covid-19 according to data from Southampton City Council.

A total of 69 of these were detected using Lateral Flow testing, with the other 62 being confirmed using PCR tests, which are normally used for people showing symptoms.

In 11 of the cases, the test type was not recorded.

Now, the council and school leaders have said symptom-free testing made a “substantial contribution” to helping to curb the spread of Covid-19.

They claim, early detection, which may otherwise have gone undetected, meant that action could be taken to self-isolate, breaking transmission chains early.

Dr Debbie Chase, Director of Public Health at Southampton City Council, claimed: “One in three people with COVID-19 don’t have symptoms.

“That is why symptom-free testing is so important, and we can see from what’s happened in our schools that it can play a significant positive role in helping to curtail the spread of COVID-19 - not just among school pupils, but also among staff, parents, carers and loved ones in the wider community.”

Dr Chase added that this type of testing can also be “incredibly important” for businesses and encouraged anyone living or working in the city to get tested regularly.

Ahead of the start of the school term, the council and school leaders says the impact of symptom-free testing offers a reminder about why it is vital that as many people as possible participate in regular testing.

Jim Henderson, Headteacher at Woodlands Community College, said symptom-free testing has had a “real impact” since returning in March.

“It has not only given us the ability to identify asymptomatic cases quickly before any possible spread, but more importantly, it has given students, staff and parents the confidence they needed to return to school.”

James Habberley, Saint George Catholic College headteacher, added: “Asymptomatic Testing has given our students, staff and parents the additional confidence and reassurance we all needed as a school community to keep us all safe.”