Further expansion of virus testing in care homes; everyone can book home testing kits online

(Title Image: BBC Wales)

The Welsh Government has made further steps to increase the testing of residents and staff in care homes by extending testing to all care home residents and staff, regardless of whether anyone had shown symptoms or not or the number of residents (previously restricted to care homes with more than 50 residents).

Care homes which have not yet experienced a coronavirus outbreak will be able to order testing kits online through a system.

Additionally, the Welsh Government announced that they will take part in a UK-wide virus test booking system, which will make home tests available to anyone who is showing symptoms of coronavirus – available here. There’s no change to the requirement to self-isolate for 14-days if someone or a member of their household is showing symptoms. The Welsh Government subsequently abandoned an arrangement with Amazon to develop a test booking service, though it’s unclear how much had been spent on that so far.

The decision not to test throughly and universally in care homes has become one of the major policy failures during the pandemic at both Welsh and UK level.

Recent figures from the Office of National Statistics showed 1,000 excess deaths in care homes in Wales during the first half of 2020 compared to last year, though as of posting only 522 of those who died were confirmed to have tested positive for Covid-19 or showed symptoms.

Plaid Cymru’s Public Services spokesperson, Delyth Jewell MS (Plaid, South Wales East), said the decision not to blanket test care homes from the start of the pandemic should be subject to a future inquiry, adding: “While it is a welcome change of approach, Ministers must now publish the advice which informed the previous policy of not testing in every care home and how it has now changed”.

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