Hundreds of thousands of tests will be offered to secondary school and college age children in a targeted effort to drive down rapidly rising cases.
Cases in London, Essex and Kent have been rising rapidly, with the fastest rates in those aged under 11 to 18 years old.
From today all staff, students and their families in certain schools and colleges will be urged to get tested. Latest figures from the ONS showed almost 1 in 3 people in England show no symptoms of having the virus but are still able to pass it on. Large-scale rapid testing helps identify these asymptomatic cases, driving down infection rates and helping break chains of transmission.
Schools and colleges will be provided with information on how to get involved, and parents or carers will be able to apply for tests using the online testing portal. Children under 16 attending a mobile testing unit (MTU) need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
The surge testing capacity will be deployed to help identity as many positive cases as possible, especially those who may be asymptomatic and unwittingly transmitting the virus.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said:
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:
Any student, staff or family members who test positive will have to isolate for the required period, and NHS Test and Trace say they will work closely with Local Authorities to take appropriate measures to support contacts within schools, and carry out necessary contact tracing.
The additional capacity comes thanks to the expansion of testing capacity by NHS Test and Trace, which is now able to process nearly 600,000 PCR tests every day and deploy new rapid lateral flow tests.