Hopes care home testing could be extended to visitors in North Yorkshire

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Regular coronavirus testing could be extended to people visiting residents in North Yorkshire care homes.

However, problems with the national testing system mean it is “difficult” to guarantee that this could happen anytime soon, health chiefs have said.

Care homes were allowed to reopen again for family visits in July – as long as local authorities and public health teams said it was safe.

But care providers across North Yorkshire are now being urged to ban visits completely after a sharp rise in community infection rates and as outbreaks in settings started to emerge.

It has sparked concerns over the mental well-being of residents but officials say their safety must always come first.

The county’s director of health and adult services, Richard Webb, has promised that the situation will be reviewed at the end of October.

He also announced that a task group is working with care homes to see what could be done to provide Covid-secure visits in the future.

“We know how vital these visits are for residents and their families and friends and how important they are for people’s mental and physical well-being.” he said.

“But we have seen infection rates rising to a worrying degree across the county, largely through household and community transmission. In the last month, we have also seen a growth in Covid outbreaks in care homes and more Covid admissions to our hospitals.

“Whilst we are working hard to contain and manage outbreaks, including within the care sector, we had to take immediate steps to protect our care home residents.”

Problems with the national testing system have caused delays for care homes in getting test results. Some care bosses in Harrogate have reported they have waited more than a week.

Mr Webb said the task group is exploring options to restart visits as soon as it can be done safely. These included testing for designated visitors and the creation of safe areas outside of care buildings.

“My own preference is for regular Covid testing for designated visitors,” Mr Webb said.

“However, given the current capacity issues with the national testing programme, it is difficult to guarantee this approach will be practicable at the present time.”