RAHT and PCR testing
Including managing positive cases and minimising risk of transmission
What is the process for managing positive cases?
Any staff or student who tests positive to COVID is required to follow NSW Health requirements under the Public Health Order for testing positive and self-isolation. Currently, the requirement is:
- isolate for 7 days following the positive test
- leave isolation after 7 days unless they have symptoms (including, a sore throat, runny nose, cough, or shortness of breath). Note: if a person continues to have symptoms, they are able to leave isolation after 7 days with a medical clearance.
Once a person who has tested positive to COVID-19 has finished their isolation period they can immediately return to school settings.
The PHO requires staff (including contractors) and students to immediately notify the school of their positive result. Schools can determine how this is to occur and to whom.
Schools will no longer have to send cohorts home or undertake contact tracing when there is a case within the school.
In place of contact tracing, there will be a generic letter available that the school can use to alert the school community that there has been a case and to monitor for symptoms. There will be no requirement to differentiate between close/casual contacts. The school can determine who the letter needs to be sent to – just a class or a wider cohort or possibly even the whole school depending on the contact the person who has tested positive had in the two days prior to being symptomatic or testing positive.
Are schools required to ask their staff and students if an individual tested positive over non-term time?
The PHO requires staff and students that test positive to notify the school. Responsibility for these notifications lies with the individual, rather than schools having to follow up. These notifications are particularly critical if they impact school operations.
Is it correct that close contacts may attend school (staff and students) but must otherwise
There have been changes to NSW Health contact tracing processes for close contacts and the introduction of a ‘household contact’.
A household contact is a person who lives with someone who has COVID-19. Only household contacts are required by NSW Health to isolate for 7 days unless the person has previously tested positive to COVID and ended their isolation for this in the past 28 days.
Previously, those that had been with a positive case for 4 or more hours was also considered a close contact – the definition has been updated and this no longer makes someone a close contact (i.e. close contacts are household contacts only).
There is an exemption in place to allow school/OSHC staff and students identified close/household contacts to leave isolation for the purpose of attending school/OHSC. Currently the PHO exemption requires these people to have a PCR test and then RAHT tests daily for the 7-day isolation period and notify the school of the outcome of each test. The exemption from isolation is only to attend school/OHSC, at other times the person must comply with the isolation requirements.
Any other individual that has contact with a COVID-positive person is not required to isolate but is advised by Health to assess the level of risk of the contact and respond accordingly. This means any exposure to COVID at school or socially does not result in a person being a close contact.
What if a close contact staff member who tests negative doesn’t want to attend school?
The employee could be offered leave without pay if the school chooses to approve that or it may become a disciplinary matter. Contact the Workplace Management Team for further advice.
Can a school insist that a staff member does not use the exemption and isolate for a full 7 days?
Yes, and if they do so the school should pay the employee their usual salary and not deduct sick leave or require the employee to take leave without pay.
What is the process for RAHT testing (availability, distribution and use of RAHT testing)?
To help to continue to provide a safe and healthy environment, we understand that all schools will be provided free of charge with a supply of rapid antigen home test (RAHT) kits for students and staff prior to school resuming.
Policy discussions with Government are continuing about the use of RAHT kits in schools. It is expected that NSW Government decisions on this will be made following National Cabinet decisions about school settings.
As there are exemptions in place for household contacts to attend school through the use of RAHT, it is anticipated that the kits supplied to schools will be used for this purpose.
Use of RAHT testing may also be considered for incident and surveillance testing of students and staff, for example prior to returning to school, in response to a positive case, when an individual is symptomatic and/or routine surveillance testing.
2021 Census data was used to inform the number of RAHT kits a school will receive taking into consideration likely enrolment growth. More information on the distribution and planned usage of RAHT kits for school communities will be available soon.
Do people test at home? How do they notify the school?
The RAHT kits that will be provided are a quick and easy screening tool to help detect COVID-19 in people who do not have symptoms. They involve a simple nose swab that is placed in a chemical solution.
Schools/OSHC will not be required to administer RAHT tests to students. Parents/carers of children participating in RAHT testing will be required to administer the RAHT test at home.
DoE requires its parents to upload every result to its portal. Do independent schools need to record positive results? What about negative results?
Schools will not be expected to keep a record of who is provided with a RAHT kit but may choose to do so. In addition to the requirement to report a positive RAHT result to Service NSW, the Public Health Order also requires staff and students to immediately notify the school of any positive result to a COVID test whether that be a PCR or RAHT test. There is no prescribed method for this, schools can determine how this is to occur and to whom.
There is not expected to be a requirement for schools to keep a record of negative RAHT test results for students or staff unless they choose to do so.
Will students need their own Service NSW account?
No, students will not be required to have a Service NSW account. Parents/carers will be able to notify Service NSW of their child’s positive result.
There may be enhancements to the Service NSW portal in the future to enable notifications of positive results to also indicate a student’s/teacher’s school.
What if a parent does not allow their child to have a RAHT test twice a week?
The use of RAHT for students will not be mandated by the NSW Government. If a parent decided that their child(ren) will not participate in RAHT testing, their child(ren) will not be able to access the exemption to attend school should they be identified as a household contact.
Not participating in RAHT testing may also have implications for their child’s participation in other school activities depending on the school’s policies and COVID protocols.
When will schools receive their test kits?
AISNSW is liaising with NSW DoE to ensure each school receives RAHT kits for staff and students before the commencement of term.
It is expected that schools will start receiving deliveries of RAHT kits from this week (possibly as early as Wednesday).
Schools will need to make someone available to receive delivery. Each box of kits will be no bigger than a tea chest packing box with a maximin weight of 15kg.
As soon as we receive information about the delivery schedule, we will notify each school accordingly.