A pilot scheme designed to enable safe care home visits during lockdown has been launched by the government.
Around 12 care homes in Hampshire, Cornwall and Devon are taking part in the trial, which gives family members or friends regular tests so that they can safely visit residents.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured) 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.”
Regular testing is being offered to one family member or friend per resident along with other infection control measures, including access to PPE, to ensure safe visits can take place.
Visitors will also take either PCR tests which they can do at home or a new 30-minute rapid lateral flow test which can be administered at a care home before a visit.
The government plans a wider roll-out of the scheme in December following the trial.
Care Minister Helen Whately unveiled plans for the scheme to MPs last week during a Westminster Hall debate.
During the debate, Shadow Care Minister Shadow Care Minister Liz Kendall said the Labour Party had been calling for families to have the regular testing and PPE they need for visits since 17 June.
She added: “The bottom line is that a pilot is not good enough or quick enough. We need those visits now.”