New Government plans to further protect those most at risk has seen £149m funding issued to support rapid testing in care home settings.
Staff are set to be asked to take two rapid tests a week, in addition to the weekly PCR test they have already been receiving.
This increased testing had been intended, but plans were accelerated in response to the new mutant strain of Covid-19 in the UK, particularly in the South East and London areas, which has appeared more virulent in initial observations.
Under the new urgent Government protocols, should a Tier 4 care home receive a positive Covid-19 test, all staff will additionally be tested daily for a period of at least seven days.
The funding award will help pay for care home providers to set up safe testing areas, provide staff training and contribute towards staff time spent on administering and receiving the tests.
This money is in addition to the more than £1.1bn Infection Control Fund and is supported by over 16 million rapid tests and 46 million items of personal protective equipment (PPE) delivered for free to care homes over the last month.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We have worked throughout the pandemic to protect staff, and residents in care homes and today we are boosting rapid testing in care homes, with a further £149m pounds to support that effort.
“All those who work in care homes across England will receive 2 rapid tests a week, in addition to their weekly PCR test.”
Visits to care homes can still take place in Tier 4 with arrangements such as substantial screens or visiting pods but, for the safety of loved ones, close-contact indoor visits supported by testing cannot take place in tier 4 areas.
Outside of Tier 4 areas friends and family are able to visit relatives in care homes that are not currently experiencing an outbreak if they receive a negative result prior to the visit, wear PPE and follow all other infection prevention and control measures.
Minister for Care Helen Whately added: “Our priority is to keep care home residents and staff safe, and we have been working hard to make the most of our testing capacity to help people reunite with loved ones as safely as possible.
“Now in the face of this new strain, which spreads much more quickly, we are increasing testing in all care homes to help protect those most at risk.
“This £149m grant will give care homes the tools and support they need to test staff regularly and safely reunite families kept apart because of Covid-19.”