Care workers looking after people in their own homes will be offered weekly coronavirus tests from Monday, the government has announced.
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 and protect those they care for.
The expansion of testing to homecare workers is the next phase in the roll-out of mass testing across the country, and has been made possible by the huge increase in testing capacity in recent weeks. Nearly 35 million tests have now been processed in the UK since the 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.
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. This is crucial to break the chains of transmission of the virus.
All registered homecare agencies will be contacted with details of how to apply for test kits for their carers next week. Homecare agencies will be responsible for ordering and distributing tests to all homecare workers for them to conduct at home on a weekly basis, testing on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday. This approach will maximise capacity available in our laboratories.
We will be expanding testing further to all other homecare workers, including live-in carers and personal assistants in a phased roll-out. We will provide further details in due course about how these groups access testing.
A month’s worth of test kits will be delivered to care providers directly who can distribute tests to their staff using the same channels used to distribute PPE.
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.
Work is also currently being carried out to explore making the rapid 30-minute lateral flow tests, currently only conducted by dedicated trained personnel, available for self-administration at home. This would allow workers to quickly find out if they are COVID-19 positive and have to isolate.