Government pledges £149 million to rapid COVID-19 testing in care homes
£149m has been allocated by Government to support increased rapid coronavirus testing in care home settings. Due to the severe vulnerability of care home residents and the need for avoiding staff-patient virus transmission, care homes have been identified as a key priority in the Government’s COVID-19 testing strategy. Staff will now be asked to undergo two rapid virus tests per week, this is in addition to the present once-a-week PCR test they complete to detect potential COVID-19 infections.
The increase in funding had been planned up until now, but its roll-out has been accelerated in the face of concerns over soaring cases of COVID-19 in UK communities and mutant strains of the virus originating in south-west England and South Africa. It is hoped that increased testing at care home sites will increase the security and mental wellbeing of staff and residents during this difficult phase of the pandemic. Safe testing areas will be established at care homes, and funding will go toward staff time that will be allocated to administering and receiving the tests.
Under the new urgent Government protocols, should a Tier 4 care home receive a positive Covid-19 test, all staff will additionally be tested daily for a period of at least seven days. Visits to care homes can still take place in Tier 4 with arrangements such as substantial screens or visiting pods but, for the safety of loved ones, close-contact indoor visits supported by testing cannot take place in Tier 4 areas. “This £149m grant will give care homes the tools and support they need to test staff regularly and safely reunite families kept apart because of Covid-19”, said Minister for Care, Helen Whately.