Care homes in Hampshire, along with others in Devon and Cornwall, are taking part in pilots that will allow designated visitors to care homes to access a COVID-19 test.
The news has been welcomed by Gosport MP, Caroline Dinenage, who served as Minister of State for Care at the Department of Health and Social Care for two years.
“I know, not only from my time as Minister of State for Care, but from correspondence with constituents and discussions with our local care homes, how vital it is that residents are able to see their loved ones and maintain contact.
“While I know that care home visitation policies are in the interests of staff and residents, protecting them from COVID-19, it has been hard to hear the stories of separation and mental health implications.
“I will be monitoring this pilot closely and sincerely hope that, if successful, this can be rolled out as quickly as possible across the constituency and country.”
Visitors to care homes will be offered either a PCR test which they can administer themselves at home, or a 30-minute rapid lateral flow tests (LFTs). Each care home taking part in the pilot – around 20 in total – will receive an initial box of 675 LFTs.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:
“I know how heart-breaking restricting visits to care homes has been, not only for residents, many of whom will feel disoriented and confused by the situation, but also their loved ones who aren’t able to simply hug each other to support them in this difficult time.
“Thanks to the expanding testing capacity we have in place we can now begin to trial a new way to allow safer visits to take place and prevent the spread of COVID-19. I must stress this is only possible if the public takes the right actions now to bring the transmission rate under control while national restrictions are in place.
“By respecting social distancing and staying at home as much as possible we will help reunite families and friends with loved ones in care homes as quickly as possible.”
The Health Secretary gave a press conference yesterday where he provided further updates on the country’s testing capacity and progress on COVID-19 vaccines. He confirmed that the government had bought 5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine – proven at this stage to be 95% effective. He also stated that two new mega labs will bring the testing capacity up to 600,000, 40 new ‘long-COVID’ clinics will be up and running by the end of the month and 83 local authorities have now signed up to receive regular batches of LFTs.