Every care home worker and resident in England to be tested for Covid-19 between now and June, Matt Hancock confirms

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced the government will test every staff member and every resident of care homes in England for Covid-19, even if they do not show symptoms, between now and June.

Speaking at the UK government's daily coronavirus briefing, Mr Hancock said there has been a "huge need to protect people in care homes", before adding that the government has worked to do this "right from the start".

Mr Hancock said two thirds of care homes in England have not had an outbreak and the number of deaths have halved since the peak.

Mr Hancock also said that age is the biggest factor in a person's risk to coronavirus and added there needs to be access for everyone in care homes.

"It is true that age is the biggest factor in terms of your risk to coronavirus, but absolutely we need to make sure that care homes for people of working age also have access to tests and we're rolling that out," he said.

He added that £600m has been made available to care homes this week to help control the infection.

This is in addition to the £172m made available to devolved governments, Mr Hancock announced.

He also confirmed that a further 384 people have died after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK, taking the total to 33,998.

Mr Hancock continued to say the latest R rate is based on data from a couple of weeks ago, adding that it is an important figure for policymakers.

It comes as the revised figures from the Sage group of scientific advisers say the R number has increased and is now between 0.7 and 1.0.

Mr Hancock also urged for the public to play their part in keeping R down by following social distancing rules.

England's Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jenny Harries, said it is important to keep the R reproduction rate below 1.

She explained the reason for a range in the ‘R’ number outlined in the statistics.

She said: "There’s quite a range there, 0.7 to one, in the estimate of ‘R’ and this is for a number of reasons."

"Partly because a number of different models are used to model this data and it’s important that they challenge each other and that we get the consistency of that," she added.

The government has said it's important to keep the R rate below 1. Credit: Downing Street

She continued: "Partly, the data comes from historic data. Obviously we can’t predict precisely so we’re estimating it on different sources of information so things like hospital admissions that have happened historically.

"And then I think thirdly importantly, we know that we have slightly different ‘R’ values relating to some areas of risks.

"So obviously in recent weeks, care homes have been heightened interest, hospitals also and we keep an eye on those. So this is very much a national average."

When asked about the plan for schools reopening in England in June and also what consequences schools could face if they don’t open, Hancock said it is "really important this is a team effort".

He added: "I wouldn't support a proposal to start to reopen schools unless it was safe to do so, and it is safe to do so."

He added: "The good news is it seems to spare children in almost every case so the risk to children is much, much lower than anyone else in society."

Dr Harries said the likelihood of anyone having the disease in a single school is small and "diminishing in time".

The children are at "key points in their educations" and going back will provide prevention from long-term issues, she added.

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