The Alzheimer's Society has said care home staff are "struggling to cope" with the coronavirus outbreak because of a lack of testing and personal protective equipment (PPE).

They have called for more focus on the care sector, on the day after it was announced that 15 residents had died at a residential home in Luton.

The deaths at Thistletroy Care Home were confirmed by Public Health England (PHE) on Wednesday, 9 April, although only five of those who died had tested positive for Covid-19.

A statement released by PHE said their policy was to stop testing once an outbreak had been confirmed.

"In occasions where some cases have already been tested positive in a care home, we do not advise testing of new cases as it will not change the public health management," the statement added.

On Thursday, Kate Lee, Chief Executive of the Alzheimer's Society, sent a letter to West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock, who is the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, calling for the care sector to be given priority alongside the NHS when it comes to testing.

She said: "Without proper testing or protective equipment care home staff are struggling to cope.

"They are putting themselves in danger to care for others, while at the same time they risk carrying the disease to vulnerable groups.

"PPE equipment must be readily available to care homes. Without it, residents’ lives are at risk.

"Care home staff and people being discharged from hospital into care homes should be given priority testing for the virus, alongside critical NHS staff."

Currently deaths from coronavirus in care homes are not included in the daily government figures, which just refer to deaths in hospitals.

Thistletroy is not the only home to have seen a mass outbreak - the BBC have reported that seven residents of an east London care home died withcoronavirus, and 21 people are displaying symptoms at the Hawthorn Green home in Stepney.

Responding to the Alzheimer's Society's letter, the Department for Health said: “Public safety and ensuring society’s most vulnerable and those most at risk from the virus continue to get the support they need throughout this period is the Government’s top priority.

“We are working around the clock to give the care sector the support they need, including detailed guidance, delivering PPE to over 26,000 care home providers and hospices, and reinstating the professional registration of 8,000 former social workers so they can fill vital roles in local communities.

“We are working to increase testing capacity for all staff – whether in the NHS or Social Care - and the Health Secretary announced an ambition to carry out 100,000 tests for coronavirus every day by the end of this month.”

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