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Greater Manchester pauses rapid testing for care home visitors

Covid TEST

Councils in Greater Manchester have paused rapid testing for care home visitors over accuracy fears.

The council followed Sheffield City Council in putting a stop to the programme after findings showed the tests were failing to detect infections.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “We are committed to facilitating care home visiting and know how important it is to relatives and residents who have waited so long. We want to implement it as soon as we possibly can but also need to do it as safely as possible.

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“Government guidance on how to implement this has only been made available in the last couple of days. We are now looking at this as well as the recommendations from our own testing expert group. We are all working hard to get things in place and we hope testing will start in the coming days.”

The move follows data from a mass testing programme in Liverpool which revealed that lateral flow tests missed 30% of people with high levels of infection, which has prompted calls from experts for the government to end the use of the tests.

Allyson Pollock, professor of public health at Newcastle University, told the BBC that the tests provided “false reassurance” and should be stopped.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Extensive testing has shown that lateral flow devices, which can return results in under an hour, are suitable for use in care homes where they can identify people who are the most likely to spread the virus further and prevent transmission of the disease from staff and visitors.

“Testing is only part of the approach and it’s essential visitors wear PPE and follow all infection control methods to keep their loved ones, other residents and staff safe.

“We have sent more than a million tests, provided free PPE and issued guidance to help bring families back together. Care home residents in all tiers will have the chance to see their relatives soon and homes across the country are arranging visits now.”

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The author Lee Peart

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