Coronavirus: Government to announce £546m care home package

Staff look on as a visitor uses her phone to take a picture of her grandad during a drive-through visit at Gracewell, a residential care home in Adderbury near Banbury, west of London on May 28 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A woman takes a photo of her relative during the lockdown in May, when visits were banned

A £546m funding package to help protect care homes from Covid-19 this winter is set to be announced by the government.

The plan includes funding to ensure staff are limited to working in one home and compensated for any reduced hours, the prime minister told the Sun.

Money will also be spent to help care workers reduce their use of public transport, and stock up on personal protective equipment.

No 10 said full details of the package will be announced later on Thursday.

Coronavirus swept through UK care homes during the peak of the outbreak, with tens of thousands of deaths.

In an interview with the Sun, Prime Minister Boris Johnson also warned that there may need to be restrictions on family visits to care homes.

“I’m afraid it’s an incredibly difficult thing, but we are going to have to place some restrictions on people – visitors – being able to go into care homes,” he said.

It comes as new coronavirus restrictions are expected to be announced in north-east England, where cases have been on the rise.

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Media captionLynn hasn’t seen her husband, who has dementia, for six weeks due to care home restrictions

In the House of Commons on Wednesday, the prime minister admitted that the government was “concerned about the rates of infection in care homes” and promised a new action plan.

It followed Labour’s call on Monday for a “clear winter plan” to protect care homes amid signs they are experiencing a rise in coronavirus cases.

Ministers have also promised to make people in care homes a priority for coronavirus tests – along with the NHS – amid ongoing issues with the UK’s testing system.

A surge in demand for coronavirus tests has led to local shortages, with many people reporting problems securing online bookings and being directed to test sites hundreds of miles from home.

The large Lighthouse laboratories, run by the government to analyse test swabs from all the UK nations, have been under strain to process them all.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will announce who will be prioritised for tests in the coming days.

Last week, the government wrote to care home bosses in England to warn them of a surge in new virus infections within the sector.

Cases were mainly among staff but there was a risk it could spread to residents, they said.

In July, care homes in England were allowed to reopen again for family visits – as long as local authorities and public health teams said it was safe. There went on to be a similar reopening of homes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

However, many care homes have not yet fully reopened – including with strict rules over visitors and or banning them completely.

Almost 30,000 more care home residents in England and Wales died during the coronavirus outbreak than during the same period in 2019, Office for National Statistics figures published in July show. But only two-thirds were directly attributable to Covid-19.

According to the figures, there were just over 66,000 deaths of care home residents in England and Wales between 2 March and 12 June this year, compared to just under 37,000 deaths last year.

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