Coronavirus: Just 505 care home staff tested despite surge in cases, government says

Number emerges as total of NHS staff and relatives tested approaches 50,000

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Tuesday 14 April 2020 16:49 BST
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A senior minister has denied care home residents are being 'airbrushed out' of official coronavirus death tolls

Just 505 care home staff have been tested for coronavirus across Britain, the government has said.

The number compares to 47,784 NHS workers and their family members tested over the past fortnight - including 2,489 on Easter Monday - as testing capacity was rapidly stepped up using a network of 23 drive-through centres.

Until this week, the centres were not open to social care workers but ministers have now issued instructions that they should be offered any spare capacity left over once NHS staff have been processed.

The number tested represents only a tiny fraction of people working in more than 11,000 care homes across the country.

It emerged as new figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that 217 people died from coronavirus in care homes in the week up to 3 April, leading to claims that the sector was being “airbrushed” out of the official version of the outbreak.

Daily reports on cases released by Public Health England only detail deaths of people with Covid-19 symptoms in hospital, not in care homes or the community.

Shadow care minister Liz Kendall said: “It is extremely worrying that only 505 social care workers have so far been tested.

“Around 1.5 million people work in social care, supporting vulnerable elderly and disabled people in their own homes and in residential care.

“The Government must act urgently to ensure front line care staff get the testing and PPE they need to keep people safe and avoid even more deaths from this awful virus.”

The Department of Health today announced that 14,982 tests were completed in the 24 hours to 9am on Tuesday.

This was up on the 14,506 the previous day, but down on the peak of more than 19,000 last week and well adrift from the 100,000 daily tests which health secretary Matt Hancock has promised by the end of April.

Downing Street said that a brand-new coronavirus lab in Milton Keynes was now processing thousands of test samples a day, with a second facility in Manchester checking a further 500 and a further lab in Glasgow due to begin operations at the end of the week.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said that drive-through tests had been extended to social care workers after the Easter weekend.

“We are now using some of the available capacity to allow social care workers to be tested if they are concerned they may have coronavirus symptoms,” said the spokesman.

“Some 505 social care workers have now been tested.”

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