All essential workers in England – and members of their household – will now be eligible for coronavirus tests, it was announced as first was going to press.
The Government had previously confirmed, following extensive lobbying from councils, care providers and the LGA, that it would offer COVID-19 tests to people living and working in social care settings.
All symptomatic care home residents will be tested, as will patients discharged from hospital before going into care homes and social care staff and the people they live with.
While the prioritisation of social care for testing is a positive development, councils have raised concerns about how the testing will operate in practice, including the use of regional rather than local centres and the need for staff to travel by car, often long distances.
Nadra Ahmed, Chairman of the National Care Association, has warned that some care workers are travelling hundreds of miles to attend the (currently) nine drive-through testing facilities. The National Care Forum reported that only a quarter of care workers eligible for coronavirus tests had managed to access them.
Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “We need urgent access for all social care staff to rapid and comprehensive testing, and greater support with staffing and other equipment, if we are to defeat this disease.”