A pilot for introducing COVID-19 rapid antigen testing in Canberra schools will not go ahead this year with health authorities warning there's "not enough time" to get the complex trial up and running.
It comes as the number of COVID-19 cases associated with school outbreaks has risen to nearly 100 across 20 affected campuses.
The territory government's cabinet met on Thursday to discuss plans to roll out rapid antigen testing in schools as an extra safeguard for students returning to classrooms.
But a decision was made to drop the pilot trial, citing the complexity of setting up an effective regime with only four weeks remaining in the term.
It will reassess the need for a testing pilot ahead of term one in 2022.
Instead, the government will observe the rollout of programs in other jurisdictions before considering the best plan for the ACT early next year.
A spokesperson for the ACT government said the rapid antigen tests, which have limitations compared to the standard PCR COVID-19 tests, would need to be used every morning for a two-week period following a possible exposure.
Parents and carers would also need to be trained on how to use it and what to do following a positive reading.
The government's focus for the rest of 2021 would instead be on making schools as COVID-safe as possible while those under 12 are unable to be vaccinated.
"With only four weeks left in the school year, there is not enough time to ensure the effective establishment and operation of a pilot," the spokesperson said.
"We know from other jurisdictions that implementing a trial is complex.
"We are aware that this has been a stressful year for many Canberrans. Looking to implement this program so close to the term ending would only generate more stress for children and their families."
ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said an additional two Canberra schools had become exposure sites on Thursday, taking the total number of affected campuses to 20.
As many as 57 infections have been linked to an outbreak at a school in Canberra's south.
Across the border, NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell announced on Thursday home testing kits would be handed to primary schools to reduce the time teachers and students spend isolating after exposure to a COVID-19 cases.
More than 500,000 kits would be rapidly deployed to primary schools affected by positive cases, the minister said.
Thursday's total of 25 new cases in Canberra marked the highest number of daily infections for almost a month.
The ACT Health Minister said a fluctuation in cases numbers was to be expected with restrictions being considerably eased.
"It's too early to say whether this increase is the start of a trend or if it will come back down," Ms Stephen-Smith said.
"We expected case numbers would increase as we move around, and gather more as we move towards the Christmas period."
The total number of active cases for the nation's capital now stands at 191 with three people in hospital and one in intensive care and on a ventilator.
ACT Health said the vaccination rate for residents aged 12 and over had reached 96.8 per cent on Thursday.
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