Health Minister, Robin Swann, announced on Tuesday evening that he was increasing coronavirus testing of care home staff from fortnightly to weekly. This is something the Commissioner has been calling for, over the past number of weeks.

Responding to the announcement, the Commissioner for Older People, Eddie Lynch said:

“I strongly welcome the move by the Health Minister to introduce weekly testing of all care home staff. I have called for this move in recent weeks and I believe that it can add an extra layer of protection against the terrible danger that the coronavirus poses to older people living in care homes.

“The rate of community transmission has dramatically increased over recent weeks and so has the number of care home outbreaks, with approximately a quarter of them currently infected. As they say, prevention is better than cure and the weekly testing of care home staff will help identify positive cases sooner and ensure residents have less chance of being exposed to the virus.

“I understand that this announcement may serve as a challenge for many care homes and their staff who continue to be at the forefront of the battle against coronavirus. It’s vital that the government and health officials continue to work closely and support the care home sector to ensure these robust measures are put in place immediately.

“Keeping the virus out of homes will hopefully allow for more care home visits. The blanket ban on care home visits back in the spring saw a detrimental effect on the physical and mental wellbeing of many residents. This was a necessary move back then but cannot be a long term position for care homes to take.

“Ultimately, as a society we all have a level of responsibility to protect older and vulnerable people. We must follow public health advice by washing our hands, wearing our masks and staying two metres apart when in public. If everyone follows the advice then we can reduce the spread and the risk to many older people.”