The Government’s most recent winter plan announced on 23 November 2020 that it was committed to provide twice weekly testing for regular visits for up to two visitors of care home residents. It now emerges that this testing will be rapid lateral flow testing which provide results on site within 30 minutes at a care home as opposed to being sent to a laboratory to confirm results. This test, when conducted under laboratory conditions, has a 76.8% chance of identifying someone with Covid-19 more generally but this accuracy does rise to 95% accuracy in individuals with high viral loads (not all patients have high prevalence of the virus yet are still positive). The tests that are to be conducted at a care home are obviously not performed laboratory conditions and as such there are concerns that the accuracy of the tests that are taken may decrease when being conducted en masse.
The Health Secretary confirmed in the Commons shortly after the announcement that the protocol in respect of how testing will be rolled out in care homes to enable residents to receive visitors is being developed. The priority is to ensure that this is completed in a safe way in order to provide everyone with the opportunity to visit a loved one in a care home before Christmas.