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Introduction

The safety and protection of the most vulnerable people in our communities is at the heart of the Welsh Government response to the Covid-19 pandemic. People living in care homes and other similar residential settings are amongst the most vulnerable, with many relying on close personal care. The large scale implementation of testing in care homes is vital to preventing and managing outbreaks.

Testing process

From Monday 10 August all care home staff will be offered a fortnightly test for an eight week period. If there are higher prevalence rates in some areas of Wales then the frequency of the testing will be increased.

Care homes testing policy

Testing in care homes has been central to preventing and managing outbreaks. But testing can only support a reduction in infection rates if coupled with actions to promote infection control more generally.

On 2 May, our care home testing policy was expanded by:

  • Targeting outbreak hot spot areas, which could include deploying our mobile testing units to test all residents in care homes in cases where an outbreak occurs; and
  • Targeting the largest care homes (those with more than 50 beds) which are at greater risk of experiencing an outbreak because of their size.
  • Testing all individuals being discharged from hospital to live in care homes regardless of whether or not they were admitted to hospital with COVID-19.
  • Testing all people who are being transferred between care homes and for new admissions from the community.

On 16 May, in response to developing evidence, the following additional safeguards were introduced:

  • In care homes with ongoing incidents / outbreaks prior to May testing will be offered to all residents and staff who have not previously tested positive for Covid-19. This means that any care home that has had a possible or confirmed case of Covid-19 amongst staff or residents within the last 28 days will be eligible for testing of all staff and residents.
  • Testing will also be offered to all symptomatic and asymptomatic staff and residents who have never tested positive for Covid-19 even where the home has not reported possible or confirmed cases.  Via the UK government portal care homes will be able to bulk order test kits enabling testing to be rolled out to all care homes in a matter of weeks.
  • It is also proposed that the antibody testing strategy currently under development, will consider if and how this could support our surveillance activity in care homes.

Environmental and hygiene support remains important in protecting care home residents and staff. We will combine testing people with environmental support when hotspots are identified. Care homes will be supported in delivering increased cleaning and increased infection control measures to accompany the testing regime.

By taking these steps we can identify early introduction of Covid-19 into care homes, providing reassurance to care homes that infection control procedures are robust, while also providing a useful surveillance tool as lockdown restrictions are lifted.

We will continue to deploy testing in care homes as part of or approach to protect our care home workers and residents from Covid-19 and to rapidly and effectively treat the infection where necessary.

Updated guidance to support you is available on Public Health Wales.

Local health board contact details for care homes

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