Covid: Visitor tests in all care homes in England by Christmas

Covid: Visitor tests in all care homes in England by Christmas

The government aims to have coronavirus testing available to allow visits in all care homes in England by Christmas, according to the health secretary.

Matt Hancock said it was “working closely with the social care sector” to try and make it happen.

It comes as a screening pilot across 20 care homes in Hampshire, Devon and Cornwall was launched on Monday.

It is hoped the trial could end restrictions on visits, when used with other measures such as face coverings.

Many people have seen strict restrictions placed on visits to care homes over the last eight months, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Hancock said he understood how important it was for people to be able to visit loved ones in care homes.

“Our goal is to ensure that we have the testing available in every care home by Christmas, to make sure that people can take a test and therefore see their loved ones safely,” he told BBC Breakfast.

The government issued updated guidance on visits to care homes on 5 November when England went into its second national lockdown.

This includes care homes ensuring PPE is used during visits, there are screens between the resident and any visitor and social distancing must be maintained “at all times”.

Michael Blackstad said the guidelines at his wife Trisha’s care home was making her situation a “nightmare”.

He told Radio 4’s Today programme she had been isolated in her room for the last three weeks due to an outbreak of the virus.

“She’s basically got this form of dementia which means she doesn’t like sitting down,” Mr Blackstad said. “That makes it a nightmare being in a single room – it is like being stuck in a hotel room for three weeks without being able to go out. It just awful.”

He said the only visitors she is allowed are care home staff dressed in personal protective equipment, which makes it difficult to “form a relationship”.

The health secretary said he had personal experience of how tough the coronavirus restrictions were for families with loved ones in care homes.

But he told the Today programme that people in care homes are “particularly vulnerable” to the virus and when it gets into the facilities it “runs rife”.

“So we both need to protect people from the virus but also do that in as a humane a way as possible, and we know the impact on people’s health, let alone everything else, on not being able to see visitors.”

Mr Hancock said “protocols” were being written alongside the current trial in care homes to allow the scheme be widened to all care homes in England.

“Describing how this can be done well with the availability of the testing, which of course is now much more widely available than it was at the start of the crisis, means that we’ll be able to roll that out right across the country.”

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