All care home staff to be tested regularly for Covid-19

Coronavirus testing in Scotland has also been extended to anyone over the age of five with symptoms.

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Coronavirus testing in Scotland has been expanded to cover all care home staff and anyone over the age of five with Covid-19 symptoms.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman said testing would be made available to all care home workers regardless of whether a coronavirus case has been reported at the home or if they have symptoms.

They will have to be tested on a “repeating basis” for it to be effective, Freeman said.

The change comes off the back of “clinical advice”, she added, speaking at the Scottish Government’s daily press briefing on Monday.

It follows the announcement by UK health secretary Matt Hancock on May 15 that every care home staff member and resident in England will be tested in the coming weeks.

Also speaking at the Scottish Government briefing, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Covid-19 testing would be extended to anyone over the age of five who has symptoms.

As of Monday, those symptoms include anosmia – the loss of your normal sense of smell or taste, or a noticeable change to either – as well as a cough or a fever.

Sturgeon said these tests will be available at the drive-in centres across the country, or through any of the mobile testing centres, with the scheme being a collaboration between the Scottish and UK governments.

While key workers will be prioritised, the First Minister said anyone with Covid-19 symptoms will be able to book a test online.

The Scottish Conservatives said Freeman’s announcement on testing for care home workers “falls well short” of what is needed.

Party leader Jackson Carlaw added: “What we need is a commitment that, in addition to care home staff, all residents and community care workers will also be included in a repeat testing policy.

“Given the scale of the challenges being faced in our care sector and the tragic loss of life in care homes and among care workers, nothing less than a 100% testing policy, extending to all staff and residents, should be acceptable.”

It comes after a trade union leader warned private care home staff in Scotland are “terrified” to be tested for Covid-19 due to fears they will suffer financially due to self-isolation.

The GMB’s Scotland secretary Gary Smith said workers in private care homes – without the protections public sector care staff have – could be forced onto statutory sick pay if they have to self-quarantine and live on “subsistence levels of money”.

He called on the Scottish Government to step in and offer care staff forced to stay at home a package of support.

Mr Smith also accused Scottish ministers of “fiddling while the care home sector burns”.