'Closer, safer visits' for those with loved ones in Scottish care homes

Scots will be allowed “closer, safer visiting” with loved ones in care homes over the festive period as a new quickfire testing regime is rolled out across the country, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has said.

The move comes after doctors, politicians, lawyers, campaigners and celebrities signed an open letter to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the weekend urging her to step in and end the "human rights scandal" around care home visiting in Scotland.

New lateral flow tests are being trialled in 14 homes across five council areas, Ms Freeman told the daily coronavirus briefing on Monday.

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testing kits are being rolled out across care homes

Ms Freeman said the trial would allow any issues with the tests, which have already been used south of the Border, to be identified.

"We will then accelerate the delivery of testing kits to all care homes across Scotland before next Monday - testing kits will be set out for each home along with guidance and training material which will be finalised following this week's early adopter trial," she said.

Guidance has been developed for training staff in the new testing regime.

Any homes which are not able to use the new lateral flow tests will be given the PCR tests so that visiting can take place over the festive period.

"It is a positive step for care homes, for residents and their families and will provide another layer of protection for them against the virus," Ms Freeman said.

The Health Secretary also said the amount of time that must pass before visitors and new residents can be admitted to a care home after it has recorded a positive test is to halve from 28 days to 14.

"We hope that this provides further support to care home residents, to staff and to families, to return to closer visiting, safe visiting, and allow some of the issues that have been raised in the past inevitably as a result of what we had to do in the early stages of the pandemic to be positively addressed now," she said.

Care home deaths accounted for more than half of all deaths from the virus in Scotland at the height of the pandemic earlier in the year, before stringent restrictions were introduced to bring the situation under control.

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