Testing for care home visitors to begin next week - and could be here by Christmas
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A new testing scheme for people visiting loved ones in care homes is to begin next week - and could arrive in the region by Christmas.
From Monday, the government is launching a pilot scheme in around 20 homes that will allow residents to put one family member of friend each forward for regular testing for coronavirus.
This will allow that individual to make regular face-to-face visits to the homes by making use of either PCR home tests or the new 30 minute rapid lateral flow tests.
The scheme is to be piloted at homes across Hampshire, Cornwall and Devon initially, but it is hoped it could be rolled out widely in time for Christmas.
It will mean that providing PPE is used, each care home resident will be able to have one named visitor - be it a family member or friend - see them indoors without the need for screens - while reducing risk to staff, other residents and visitors.
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Announcing the new measure, health 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.
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“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.” If the pilot proves successful, it will be rolled out nationwide in December, though this will be phased at it remains to be seem when Norfolk will be included.
Care minister Helen Whately added: “The pandemic has torn many lives apart but few have been affected more than people living in care homes and their families.
“As Christmas approaches, I want to bring an end to pain of separation and help care homes bring families and loved ones together. The launch of visitor testing is a crucial step to making that happen.”