One of Scotland’s leading care home operators has written to the Scottish Government calling on them to provide weekly COVID-19 tests for relatives visiting care homes.

The Scottish Government this week introduced new guidelines for Scotland’s care home sector which include a recommended four hours of weekly visits by a nominated visitor.

But Robert Kilgour, founder and chairman of Renaissance Care, which operates 15 care homes in Scotland, said: “We are all keen to see family members resume their essential and hugely beneficial visits to elderly relatives. Our residents have been desperate to see family members after so long apart, but this must be done safely if we are to avoid more devastating and entirely preventable outbreaks of coronavirus in Scotland’s care homes.

“We are calling on the Scottish Government urgently to provide mandatory weekly coronavirus tests for the nominated visitors to each resident, in the same way that all our staff must undertake weekly testing. It’s the only way to make sure that relatives do not become unwitting carriers of coronavirus into care homes and we can see no reason why the government would not support this essential step.”

Mr Kilgour, who has written to Health Minister Jeanne Freeman to request weekly testing of all nominated visitors, said: “Tragically, Scotland’s care home sector saw a higher proportion of coronavirus deaths than elsewhere in the UK, partly caused by people with coronavirus being transferred from hospitals into care homes without being tested, in order to free up beds in hospitals.

“These lessons must be learned if we are to protect the most vulnerable in our society. Once Covid-19 gets into a care home, it is incredibly difficult to stop it spreading. In many cases, the R number in care homes affected by Covid-19 is as high as 10, and that’s within a population which everyone knows is acutely at risk.

“The Scottish Government’s plan to increase the frequency of visitors is a very laudable one but it must be accompanied by the essential safeguard of coronavirus testing on a weekly basis, otherwise I fear relatives will become unwitting Trojan Horses for coronavirus, with devastating consequences.”

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