Schools selected for testing have started sending letters to parents. One from Broadgreen International School sounded the alarm saying that due to “difficult and unprecedented circumstances” it would not be possible to obtain parental permission in the normal way. Instead, parents would be required to opt out by letter.
Each child would be identified with “a unique barcode,” he says, and if a positive test was received, the school would “secure” the individual concerned, before identifying others who had been in close contact, who would then need to isolate themselves. .
Liverpool City Council said the letter was inaccurate and no child would be tested without parental consent. “We were not aware of this letter until it was sent to parents,” a spokesperson said. “Due to inaccuracies he was withdrawn by the school.
“We are working closely with the schools and our partners involved in the mass testing program to ensure that the process in the schools is as smooth as possible.”
The spokesperson said the military will provide logistical support in setting up and running the tests and the council is working with public health and school nursing services to facilitate the program in schools.
The plan is to roll out testing to all secondary schools in Liverpool first, but experts are also looking at whether it could be extended to primary schools. “There are 130 primary schools in Liverpool so it would be a huge logistical challenge,” the spokesperson said.
Allyson Pollock, professor of public health at Newcastle University, has expressed unease with mass testing of children. She said: “Screening is a very complex procedure. It must be part of a very well thought out program. It has not been thought through.
“Children have been through extreme disruption before. If you bring in the military, you have psychological distress, the physical trauma of having a test, and you have the potential for stigma if you test positive.
Liverpool Director of Public Health Matthew Ashton said: ‘The more of us who are tested, the more we can stop the spread of Covid-19 in our city. We say to people: do this for our families, our city, our Liverpool – and that includes our young people.
“All children between the ages of 11 and 18, for whom the appropriate registered consent is provided, are eligible for testing. We invite the youth of our city to participate in this process and be part of this revolutionary initiative.