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Regulator refuses to approve mass Covid testing at schools in England

Boris Johnson’s plans to test millions of schoolchildren for coronavirus every week appear to be in disarray after the UK regulator refused to formally approve the daily testing of pupils in England, the Guardian has learned.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) told the government on Tuesday it had not authorised the daily use of 30-minute tests due to concerns that they give people false reassurance if they test negative.

This could lead to pupils staying in school and potentially spreading the virus when they should be self-isolating.

The regulator’s decision undermines a key element of the government’s strategy to bring the pandemic under control – and is bound to raise fresh questions about the tests, and the safety of the schools that have been asked to use them.

Ministers have repeatedly said the use of daily Covid-19 tests is critical to keeping children in education because it means those who test negative can remain in classrooms, instead of whole year-groups having to self-isolate.

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