Covid tests chaos is blamed on ‘mad’ frenzy by parents to get checks done on children who have colds
- Coughs and colds usually spike each September when pupils head back to class
- But No10 said people ‘not understanding’ test requirements played part in surge
- 300 schools sent pupils home after reported or suspected cases by last week
The testing chaos was last night blamed on a ‘mad’ rush by parents needlessly seeking Covid tests for children with common colds.
Typically, coughs and colds spike every September when children head back to class, and become even more common during the winter.
But a No 10 source said the surge in demand for tests was due in part by people ‘not understanding when they should and shouldn’t get a test’.
The source said: ‘For example, whole classes of children and their families have been sent for tests after one positive case, which is mad.
‘Loads of kids get sniffles in the autumn – the difference now is they’re all being kept off school and trying to get corona tests.’
A graphic shows how parents can tell the difference between a cold, flu and coronavirus
Public health experts echoed the sentiments. Linda Bauld, Professor of Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, said the same pattern of over-testing was evident in Scotland, where schools returned around a fortnight before those south of the border.
‘It was apparent from the Scottish example that a lot of unnecessary tests were taken up by parents for their children and the same thing has happened in England and Wales,’ she told The Mail on Sunday.
Dido Harding, head of NHS Test and Trace, told MPs that there had been a ‘very marked increase in the number of young children being tested, a doubling of children under 17 being tested’, with even larger rises in those aged five to nine.
According to some reports, more than 300 schools had sent either some or all pupils home after reported or suspected cases by last week.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health advises that children with simple cold symptoms such as a runny nose or sore throats without fever should not be tested.
But The Mail on Sunday discovered dozens of examples of parents ignoring the advice.
On the website forum Mumsnet, one mother told how she had ordered a home test for her daughter because she had a cough and cold, but did not have a high temperature. ‘Trust me I don’t really want to test her. It isn’t fun for either of us. She’s been coughing on and off all morning now. Yes, I’m sure it is a cold but I’ve been told to get a test so I am,’ she wrote.
Another wrote: ‘It is bonkers. My son has a cold – sneezing, snotty, no temp, (mild) sore throat, no cough.
‘He felt well enough to be in school but I said to ask to come home at lunchtime if he was struggling. He texted at lunchtime to say that if he asks to come home, we will all have to self-isolate and get a test. So he’s staying at school. No wonder there is a massive shortage of tests, people have lost all common sense and perspective. Of course children are going to get colds in the autumn term, especially when they haven’t been mixing over the summer.’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock reinforced the point, telling the BBC Radio 4 Today programme last week: ‘It is so important that we ensure that the tests are used for the people who really need them.’