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Government's coronavirus test and trace programme sparks fears over care home staff shortages

THE government’s new test and trace scheme sparked concern today that there would be severe care home staff shortages if many workers have to self-isolate.

The scheme, which was launched in England on Thursday, requires people to self-isolate for 14 days if contacted by a contact tracer, whether they show symptoms of coronavirus or not.

The government’s scientific and medical advisers have repeatedly said that infection levels in care homes are a huge block to preventing the further spread of Covid-19.

Care England chief executive Professor Martin Green raised concerns over staff shortages, adding that long-term testing in care homes needs to be prioritised.

Mr Green told BBC Breakfast: “I think one of the things that we have to understand is that it’s an enormous task to get testing into care homes, and also the testing is not a one-time activity.

“We need a rolling programme of testing, both for residents and also for staff, so this is something that is a huge logistical issue.

“But we have got to get on top of it and we’ve got to also prioritise care homes because of course it’s care homes where the most vulnerable people live, so I really want to see testing ramped up.”

The warning came as Labour’s shadow social care minister Liz Kendall said that care workers — both those in care homes and those who deliver care in people’s own homes — should be a priority for testing through local centres, mobile units and tests sent to carers’ homes.

The government is still short of its self-imposed target to test every care home patient for coronavirus by early June, with the latest data suggesting fewer than one in four has received a test since the pandemic started.

Analysis from the Data Analysis Bureau and person-centred software shows that 38 per cent of care homes have had no residents tested since the pandemic started.

GMB union warned today that the track and trace app will spread either poverty or infection unless it is backed up by full sick pay for all. 

The union’s national officer Rachel Harrison said that the government had made the announcement “without any real understand of its impact on working people.”

She said: “Ministers on whopping salaries expecting the key workers who’ve been keeping our country going to self-isolate on £95 a week.”

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