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Home care workers to be offered weekly coronavirus tests from next week

Care workers looking after people in their own homes will be offered weekly coronavirus tests from Monday, the Government has announced.

From 23 November, care providers can book tests for their staff online, with the roll-out signifying the next stage in the Government’s expansion of mass testing.

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Those working for CQC-registered providers will receive weekly PCR tests to administer at home, which will help identify more asymptomatic cases and protect care users who are more vulnerable to the virus.

Regular testing will give workers peace of mind by picking up on any asymptomatic transmission whilst protecting those they care for.

Largest testing capacity in Europe

Careworker Fabiana Connors visits client Jack Hornsby at his home during the coronavirus pandemic on May 3, 2020 in Elstree, England (Photo: Karwai Tang/Getty Images)

Nearly 35 million tests have been processed in the UK since the mass testing service began, and this week the government announced 2 new ‘megalabs’, which will add a further 600,000 to daily UK testing capacity in early 2021.

Minister for Care Helen Whately said: “Homecare workers have been doing an incredible job throughout the pandemic, caring day in and day out and going the extra mile to keep people they care for safe from COVID.

“As our testing capacity continues to expand, I’m glad we’re able to take this next step and make regular testing available to homecare workers. Now, as well as having PPE, homecare workers will be able to take a weekly test to check they do not have coronavirus.

“We now have the largest testing capacity in Europe, so we’re using this to protect those who are at greater risk if they catch COVID.”

Proactively testing asymptomatic individuals helps to identify those who unknowingly have the virus, and enables those who test positive and their contacts to self-isolate – which is deemed crucial in order to break the chains of transmission of the virus.

Maximising capacity

All registered homecare agencies will be contacted with details of how to apply for test kits for their carers next week; they’ll be responsible for distributing tests to all homecare workers for them to conduct at home on a weekly basis – testing on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday – to maximise capacity available in laboratories.

It’s expected testing will be expanded further to other homecare workers, including live-in carers and personal assistants in a phased roll-out.

Over 120,000 tests are already ring-fenced for social care every single day, and a testing pilot has begun in care homes this week to support visiting ahead of a national roll-out starting in December.

Greater workforce protection

Baroness Dido Harding said: “NHS Test and Trace has worked tirelessly to increase capacity for testing, achieving its target of capacity for 500,000 tests by the end of October.

“I am delighted that this capacity means that we can now roll out regular, weekly testing to our domiciliary care staff. This has long been a priority for us and it will ensure greater protection to this vital, often unseen, workforce and the people they care for.”

It is currently also being explored whether the rapid 30-minute lateral flow tests, which are currently only conducted by dedicated trained personnel, could be made available for self-administration at home, allowing workers to find out quickly if they are Covid-19 positive.

At the moment lateral flow test kits are being used across schools, universities and local authorities, with whole-area pilots in Liverpool and Merthyr Tydfil in Wales.