Nicola Sturgeon reveals more testing for care home visitors

More than 4,000 people have been screened with 45-minute Covid tests at new centres in areas suffering from high rates of the virus, it has been revealed, and care home visitors will be able to use the same tests to help them see loved ones this Christmas.

Nicola Sturgeon announced the figures at her daily coronavirus briefing when she also confirmed the opening of a sixth testing site.

The new centre in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, will use the Lateral Flow Test, which can give a result in 45 minutes. But any positive cases found will also have to undergo the more rigorous PCR (polymerise chain reaction) swab test.

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Nicola Sturgeon at the daily briefing.

The First Minister also revealed the Lateral Flow Tests will be used in care homes across Scotland to enable visitors to see loved ones over Christmas.

She said while they are being piloted in 15 care homes in five local authority areas at present, “testing kits will be delivered to all care homes across Scotland from 14th December, a month earlier than we had originally anticipated”.

Ms Sturgeon added: “It’s possible not all homes will be able to make Lateral Flow Tests available before Christmas, so we're also planning to make PCR testing of visitors available over the festive period.

“The Lateral Flow Tests bring much quicker results than standard PCR, but they are less sensitive than PCR, so while they can make a difference and help in the fight against Covid, it’s important, particularly in care homes, that we don't allow testing to replace any of the safeguards we’re asking people to follow."

She added: “This mass use of testing is a supplement, an addition to all the other protections we're seeking to put in place, but it's potentially a very valuable way to better protect care home residents and staff and bring a bit of normality back to care homes.”

Ms Sturgeon also urged people in Johnstone to attend the new centre even if they do not have symptoms.

She said: "In the past few days at five other sites in communities with relatively high rates of Covid, more than 4,000 people have been tested in Alloa, Stewarton, Girvan, Dalmarnock and Pollockshields, and I’m grateful to everyone in those communities."

Ms Sturgeon said “collectively" the testing centres “will produce valuable information for us as we consider expanding community testing in the new year”.

The Lateral Flow Test is also being used to screen students before they leave university to return home for Christmas, although there have been concerns raised about the tests delivering too many false negatives.

However, she acknowledged the recent positive developments, including vaccines, can "cancel out the grief and pain this virus has caused, but it allows us to start to look forward with some greater hope and optimism for the future”.

She added: "There is a gap between now and the vaccine starting to kick in and provide the protection we need … so keep at it for these final few months.

“The prevalence of the virus is still higher than we would like it to be, so we need to motivate ourselves to get through this period safely. With the vaccine in view I would encourage everyone to think very carefully about whether you want to take any unnecessary risks with family members at Christmas.”

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