Coronavirus: Weekly testing of nursing home staff considered

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) is to consider an increase in the frequency of testing in nursing homes from fortnightly to weekly due to rising coronavirus cases.

Raising the frequency of serial testing of staff in nursing homes, which is designed to catch asymptomatic coronavirus infections to prevent outbreaks among vulnerable residents, from fortnightly to weekly would double the number of nursing home tests to about 30,000 a week.

Nphet emphasised the importance of continuing the fortnightly serial testing “as a proactive protective measure” in a letter last week to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.

The team told the Minister that it had asked the HSE to finalise proposals “for sustainable approaches to testing across a number of priority areas including vulnerable groups living in congregated settings, health workers in acute settings and food processing facilities”.

Outbreaks

The serial testing is due to be discussed further at Nphet’s meeting today with the possibility of enhanced testing in care facilities, one of the settings most vulnerable to the worst effects of the virus and a sector that accounts for more than half of the State’s Covid-19 deaths.

The discussion takes place against the backdrop of an increasing number of outbreaks in nursing homes with 11 reported last week, bringing the number of open outbreaks to 40.