In England and Wales, face masks and social distancing is no longer a requirement in schools and self-isolation rules also differ from nation to nation. Face masks are still required in schools in Scotland until the end of September.
The relaxing of Covid-19 restrictions combined with most children under the age of 18 being unvaccinated could result in a “likely” increase in positive cases when schools reopen, said Dr Julian Tang, a clinical virologist at the University of Leicester.
As each UK nation has different rules for handling positive cases of coronavirus in schools, parents will need to stay on top of what to do if someone in their child’s class tests positive for the virus.
Here’s everything you need to know:
Students in England are urged to take rapid lateral flow tests twice a week. If someone in your child tests positive, NHS Test and Trace will inform other students or their parents that they have been in close contact with a positive test.
Your child will be advised and encouraged to take a PCR test if they are identified as a close contact. However, they should continue attending school as normal while waiting for the results of the PCR test.
They also will not have to wear a face covering within school, but it is “expected and recommended” that face masks are worn on public transport.
According to government guidance, other members of your household will not be required to self-isolate if they are fully-vaccinated, are not able to get vaccinated for medical reasons, or below the age of 18.
If there is an outbreak of positive Covid cases in the school, you may be advised that some control measures will need to be temporarily reintroduced.
Schools in Scotland reopened in mid-August and are believed to have contributed to the rapid rise of Covid infections in the country.
If a positive Covid case is identified in school, the school should be contacted by Test and Protect to identify potential close contacts. Parents will then be sent a “warn and inform” letter about the case.
According to the BBC, some schools have decided to inform parents if there has been a case in individual classes. If you have been informed of a positive case in your child’s school, you will be asked to watch out for Covid-19 symptoms and continue at-home testing for secondary school students.
However, your child will not be asked to self-isolate and will likely not be identified as a close contact.
The definition of a close contact in Scotland has changed, and will no longer include students in the same classroom.
Instead, guidance from the Scottish government says that close contacts are likely to be parents and siblings, those who have stayed overnight and those who have had “clear, prolonged contact”.
However, if your child is identified by NHS Test and Protect as a close contact, they will have to self-isolate immediately and book a PCR test. If the PCR test returns negative and your child does not have symptoms, they can return to school, but if it is positive, they will have to stay in self-isolation in line with NHS guidance.
In Wales, the Test, Trace and Protect (TTP) system will get in touch with contacts from a school where a student has tested positive only if they meet the definition of a close contact.
According to guidance, this is “likely to be a small number of individuals who would be most at risk of contracting Covid-19 due to the nature of their contact”.
If your child has been identified as a close contact of a positive case in their school, they will be offered a PCR test – however, these are not mandatory to take but are recommended.
Children without symptoms who have not been advised to self-isolate can continue attending school, but if they test positive for the virus or show any symptoms, they should stay at home and isolate.
All adults who have been fully vaccinated are no longer required to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact.
Pupils in Northern Ireland will not have to self-isolate after coming into contact with a coronavirus case if they have recently tested positive for the virus themselves.
New guidance by the Public Health Agency (PHA) issued last week says that pupils can stay in school as long as they do not show any symptoms, but must avoid visiting care homes and hospitals.
The guidance states: “Pupils who are close contacts but have already had a positive test result in the previous 90 days and have no new symptoms do not need to arrange a PCR test or self-isolate.
“This is because it is possible for PCR tests to remain positive for some time after Covid-19 infection due to residual virus fragments (which are not infectious).”
However, students identified as a close contact who have not had a positive PCR test in the previous 90 days will be advised to self-isolate until they have taken a PCR test.
If the test returns negative, they can go back to school and do not have to self-isolate for 10 days. They are advised to take another test on day eight.
If you are fully vaccinated, you will not have to self-isolate even if your child is a close contact of a positive Covid case at school.