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Leading care home provider calls for weekly testing

Weekly testing of all residents and staff is needed to tackle the Covid-19 outbreak in care homes, the head of one of the UK’s largest care providers said.

Sam Monaghan, chief executive of MHA, warned asymptomatic cases meant the virus could spread without being noticed.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “What we’re saying is either once a week or once a fortnight. Some of the research that

seems to have been done would suggest that weekly would be the most effective way.”

He added: “Just two weeks ago we had a home where there had been no infections throughout the whole of the pandemic. We had a case develop in one of our residents, they started to show symptoms, they were tested and found to be positive.

“None of the residents had been in or out of hospital, there was no other way that it could have come in and yet none of the staff were presenting any symptoms and at that point it was before the whole home-testing procedure was in.

“There was a real reluctance to test staff, they were going to test the residents but they were not going to test the staff. But that was the most highly likely way the infection could have come into the home.”

But the government’s testing chief, who also appeared on the programme, said there were no plans to carry out weekly testing.

Public Health England’s Professor John Newton, who is leading the government’s Covid-19 testing response, said: “We are rolling out testing to everybody in care homes and the value of that is to understand how the infection has spread.

“It’s a very dynamic infection, the numbers are in fact falling. So before you decide whether you need to test every member of staff every week, we need to understand how the infection has spread already.

“We need to know how to protect people best, how to support care homes and that information is still coming in and I think it would be premature to decide exactly what is required now.”

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