Government approves plan for September COVID-19 testing at schools

The Ministry of Health, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, has prepared a plan for the widespread testing for COVID-19 at schools when pupils return to the classrooms in the autumn. Pupils will face three antigen tests within a few days of each other.  The plan was approved by the government at its session today.  

“The main goal of blanket testing is to ensure a safe post-holiday return to full-time education for children and students and to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission in this population group right at the beginning of the school year. It will also prevent possible outbreaks that could become the basis for the further spread of the infection and worsening of the epidemiological situation this autumn,” described Minister of Health Adam Vojtěch.

Testing will be carried out using antigen tests during the first days of the 2021/22 school year and will cover preparatory classes of primary schools, preparatory levels of special primary schools, as well as primary and secondary schools and conservatories with full-time education. “I appreciate the fact that the Ministry of Health managed to meet the promised deadline so that schools will receive the information before the end of this school year. I am also very pleased that first-year students will be able to be tested on the second day of school, and that schools will also be able to use PCR tests for testing after the holidays with a contribution from the Ministry of Education,” said Minister of Education Robert Plaga about the material.

This core segment of the education system was selected for testing because it provides comprehensive information on the prevalence of the disease and the associated potential for spread in the population age group between 6 and 18 years, in the period immediately after the summer holidays.  “Knowledge of the viral load in the population after the summer holidays and vacation period is necessary for setting adequate and targeted measures for the further effective management of the pandemic in our territory,” added the Chief Hygienist of the Czech Republic Pavla Svrčinová.

Highly reliable antigen tests (PCR sensitivity above 80%) will be used for the tests, based on the submitted German antigen test list.  Pupils will undergo a total of three tests within a few days.

The first day of testing will take place on 1 September and will cover all pupils, except for first-graders, who will be given the next day to ensure that their first day of school is not disrupted.  Further testing for all pupils will take place the following Monday, 6 September and Thursday, 9 September.

After these three days of testing, the ministry will evaluate the results. If the screening shows fewer than 25 positive cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 7 days, testing will be terminated. Otherwise, testing will be extended until the end of September and another round of testing will take place (again with three testing days). The testing should take place once a week.

The antigen tests will be paid for from the state budget and will be purchased by the State Material Reserves Administration (SSHR).  There will be 4.2 million tests needed for the first three testing days. For any additional testing, tests in the SSHR warehouses (2.6 million units) that were not used in the last school year will be used and the remaining tests (1.6 million units) will be supplied by the chosen supplier (the same as for the first three tests).

Pupils who have a medical condition, vaccinations or an exemption as per an emergency measure (e.g., autism spectrum disorder, etc.) will not be tested.