Around 10,000 people will be given repeat testing as part of a government study to understand how the coronavirus spreads in care homes.
As part of the government’s COVID-19 testing strategy swab tests and consenting blood antibody tests will be carried out at 100 care homes in England over the next year.
Minister for Care Helen Whately said: “We know care homes are on the frontline of our fight against coronavirus, with the virus affecting older people more acutely than the general population. Not only will this study provide important reassurance to thousands of residents and staff, it will also build our understanding of the rate of infection in care homes and add to our knowledge about the risk factors that mean the virus can affect individuals differently.
“The results of this study will help inform our future plans for managing the pandemic, to protect the public and those who receive care as we work to carefully return to normality.”
The first blood samples of the study took place on 11 June with results expected in July.
The research, which is being carried out in collaboration with DHSC, UCL and NHS Data Foundry, will help inform the government’s future response to the virus and draw on results from whole care home testing and previous studies to build a more comprehensive picture of how outbreaks develop.
Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive, Care England, said: “Care homes are the frontline and this opportunity is welcome. This study is absolutely critical if we are to win the battle against COVID-19. There is still so much to learn about this virus; why some care homes have tested positive whilst displaying no symptoms or deaths and others have felt the full force of the brutality of this silent killer. The government’s study will help us understand the way in which this virus operates, thus enabling us to be better prepared today, tomorrow and in the future.”
The government has also extended whole care home testing to all adult care homes after meeting the target of offering a test to every care home for over-65s and those with dementia in England by 6 June.
Since the launch of whole care home testing, the government has provided test kits to over 12,000 care homes, and is now able to send out and process over 50,000 test kits a day.