Staff and residents of care homes for over 65s and those with dementia will receive regular Covid-19 tests from next week, the Department of Health and Social Care has announced today.
Care home staff will be tested weekly and residents every 28 days to prevent the spread of the virus, in addition to more intensive testing in any care home facing or at increased risk of an outbreak.
This comes as the latest Office for National Statistics data shows that nearly 20,000 – or a fifth – of deaths of care home residents in England and Wales have involved Covid-19, between 2 March and 12 June.
But health secretary Matt Hancock said the new testing strategy would keep staff and residents safe and give ‘peace of mind to the families who may be worried about their loved ones’.
Retesting will be rolled out to all care homes for over 65s and those with dementia within four weeks, the DHSC said.
The move follows new evidence from the Government’s Vivaldi 1 study, which found higher levels of the virus among care staff, particularly temporary staff working in multiple care settings.
The Vivaldi 1 study surveyed almost 9,000 care home managers in England between 11 May and 7 June.
Earlier this week, another paper suggested that a shortage of personal protective equipment helped Covid-19 spread through a care home, once the virus was present.
However, it also found that introduction of the virus was not linked to PPE supply but more on the numbers of non-care staff – such as maintenance people, cooks and administrative roles – working at a home.
The higher the number of non-care staff working in a care home, the more likely Covid-19 would be introduced to the home, the study suggested.
The social care staff death rate from Covid-19 is also twice that of the general population, according to Office for National Statistics data up until 20 April.