Last reviewed 28 July 2021

The Department for Education (DfE) has confirmed that NHS Test and Trace has introduced a new type of lateral flow device for early years staff for at-home Covid testing.

The new Orient Gene tests require nasal swabbing only, with no need for swabbing the throat as well, and the devices return a result in under 20 minutes.

The DfE has advised that settings should start to use the new tests when their current stock of Innova self-test kits are depleted and to reorder additional test kits through the online reordering system when stocks start to run low so that staff can continue to test without disruption.

The new Orient Gene test kits are supplied in boxes of seven and enable testing for three and a half weeks. Updated guidance on the introduction of the new tests has been uploaded to the early years and primary school document sharing platform, available here.

Meanwhile, there have been concerns that the Government has not included the early years sector in its list of "critical sectors" that will be exempt from the requirement to self-isolate after being in contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19. Under new rules, those on the critical sector list who are fully vaccinated (14 days after second dose) and do not have any coronavirus symptoms can continue to attend their work as long as they take a daily test.

The scheme is expected to remain in place until 16 August, when any fully vaccinated adults will no longer be required to self-isolate after contact with a positive case.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said:

“We are aware that the number of early years staff being asked to self-isolate is having a detrimental impact on providers’ ability to offer the essential early care and education that parents rely on. That includes the children of those key workers being asked to leave isolation for the purposes of keeping our essential services running.”

“Since July of last year, the early years sector has been considered essential. So essential that even when schools closed, our settings were asked to remain open to all children — in spite of the risks to providers and their families — to ensure the country continued to run. That’s why it is absurd that government would not now include those same people in this exemption for critical workers.”

“Early years providers continue to offer an essential service throughout the summer months when schools are closed. We are in conversation with government to understand why the early years has not been included in the exemptions, and how settings can be supported to navigate this period of rapidly rising case rates.”