Wales extends Covid-19 testing in care homes

Coronavirus testing in Wales has been extended to people in care homes even if they are not showing symptoms of the disease, the Welsh Government has said.

On Friday, First Minister Mark Drakeford told the Government’s daily briefing that every resident and staff member in a care home would now be tested if there was a suspected case of Covid-19.

The Welsh Government confirmed the change in testing policy to the PA news agency, after ministers had repeatedly said tests would only be given to those who display symptoms.

At his press conference on Friday, Mr Drakeford said: “If there is someone who is symptomatic in a care home, we are likely to want to test people who are asymptomatic in care homes.

“In care homes with nobody with symptoms at all, and over half the care homes in Wales today have nobody who has any signs or symptoms of coronavirus, then the case for testing there is not one that has been advised to us as having a clinical value.

“But where there are some people who are symptomatic, and other people who are asymptomatic, then testing people who are asymptomatic does have a purpose and we’re doing that.”

The change in testing policy is still different to that in England, where all care home residents and staff are able to access tests regardless of whether they have symptoms.

A Welsh Government spokesman told PA: “We are learning more about coronavirus every day – the evidence is constantly changing and emerging and we keep it under constant review.

“The latest evidence shows that we should extend testing in care homes to manage outbreaks. We will test all staff and residents in care homes when an outbreak of coronavirus is identified.”

On Thursday, Wales’ health minister Vaughan Gething questioned England’s decision to extend testing to asymptomatic people in care homes during the virtual meeting of the Welsh Assembly’s health committee.

And later on Thursday, Wales’ chief medical officer Dr Frank Atherton defended the decision not to follow England, saying the scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage) had “not to my knowledge” looked at the benefits of testing people for Covid-19 when they do not have symptoms.

On Friday, Public Health Wales said a further 17 people had died after testing positive for coronavirus, taking the total number of deaths to 925.

The total number of confirmed cases grew by 160 to 9,972.