Good morning. Schools in England are reopening fully from today, and secondary school pupils will be asked to take regular lateral flow tests (the ones that give rapid results). But there is controversy over a plan to require pupils who test positive to self-isolate, even if they subsequently test negative with a PCR test. PCR tests, which take longer to produce results because they are processed in a laboratory, are more accurate. As the official NHS England advice makes clear, other people who test positive with a lateral flow test administered at home can get released from self-isolation if they test negative with a PCR test.
In interviews this morning Vicky Ford, the children’s minister, defended the plan for schools. She told the Today programme:
The first priority is to make sure that we keep the Covid out of the classrooms with these regular tests. The chances of the lateral flow test giving a false positive are actually very low …
The really important thing here is to make sure that we can keep schools open and minimise the risk of having Covid in the classrooms, and that is why if people have had the test that shows that they have got Covid through the lateral flow test, we should not take the risk of having that child in the classroom.
She also referred to an interview (pdf) given by Dr Susan Hopkins from Public Health England on the Andrew Marr Show yesterday as evidence that the chances of a lateral flow test delivering a “false positive” (a positive result for someone who in fact does not have coronavirus) are very low. Hopkins said:
We’ve looked very carefully at the evidence that’s emerging from the tests that have been delivered at home and in the testing sites over the last eight weeks, and the actual validation of those tests in real-life scenarios suggests that it’s 99.9 per cent, at least, specific, which means that the risk of false positives is extremely low, less than one in a thousand.
Here is the agenda for the day.
9.30am: The ONS publishes reports on vaccine hesitancy among different ethnic groups, and on job prospects for graduates during the Covid crisis.
10am: Andrew Bailey, governor of the Bank of England, gives a speech on the economic outlook to the Resolution Foundation thinktank.
10.30am: Douglas Ross, the Scottish Conservative leader, gives a speech to the Onward thinktank.
11am: Anas Sarwar, the new Scottish Labour leader, holds a press conference.
12pm: Downing Street is expected to hold its daily lobby briefing.
12.15pm: Kirsty Williams, the Welsh government’s education minister, holds a briefing.
12.15pm: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, is expected to hold a coronavirus briefing.
1pm: Sir Keir Starmer is interviewed by Jeremy Vine on Radio 2.
3.30pm: The Office for Budget Responsibility gives evidence to the Commons Treasury committee about the budget.
5pm: Downing Street may hold a press conference.
Politics Live is now doubling up as the UK coronavirus live blog and, given the way the Covid crisis eclipses everything, this will continue for the foreseeable future. But we will be covering non-Covid political stories too, and when they seem more important or more interesting, they will take precedence.
Here is our global coronavirus live blog.
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