Miriam Cates, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, wants the lives of young people to stop being an ‘afterthought’ during the Covid pandemic.
She highlighted an ‘alarming’ lack of evidence for testing children twice a week - and the cost of testing for kids across secondary schools this week is the equivalent of a year’s wage for more than 3,000 teachers.
She said: “Lateral flow tests are inadequate at identifying real cases but also record false positives. It is also reasonable to establish that the benefits of mass testing outweigh the harms. How many Covid cases have been prevented by testing asymptomatic children?
“Does this justify the harms of lost education, the psychological impact of isolation, the lost income for families when parents are forced to stay at home?
“If the alarming lack of evidence isn’t enough, surely the financial costs should bring us to our senses.
“With lateral flow tests costing between £5 and £30 each, if every secondary school student takes two Covid tests at the start of term, we are about to spend in the region of £100 m on testing children in just one week.
“That’s enough to pay the salaries of more than 3,000 teachers for a whole year.”
Every time school kids have arrived back at school for a new term since the pandemic started, infection rates across Barnsley - and much of the country - have soared, but Miriam doesn’t believe schools cause higher rates.
“It seems fairly clear that the number of recorded case numbers is going to rise sharply once these children are individually tested,” she added.
“But as we brace ourselves for these first days of term, it is crucial that we understand three important truths about this mass testing of school children.
“First, the cases we find will not have been ‘caused’ by school returns. They are likely to be existing infections transmitted in the usual ways.
“Secondly, there is nothing surprising about these figures. If you test a lot, you will probably find a lot of cases.
“Thirdly, there is nothing alarming about 2.5 per cent of 11 to 16-year-olds being infected with Covid.
“It is not a dangerous disease for most children, the vast majority of adults have been vaccinated, and the low numbers of Covid deaths now being recorded are proof that this immunity is working.”
She’s now calling for the mass testing to stop.
“Those who call for new restrictions in schools seem to think that it’s morally acceptable to use our children’s education as a ‘buffer zone’ to try to prevent the spread of a disease that causes them no harm,” she added.
“The same people say they are ‘following the science’.
“On the basis of what evidence did we pursue the burdensome policy of isolating ‘contacts’ of positive cases, which has seen millions of children miss weeks of education?
“But at many points during the pandemic, the best interests of young people have barely been an afterthought.
“The mass testing of healthy children feels like an out of control train gathering momentum - there is no longer any meaningful destination, and it’s time to jump off.”