South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has called for mobile Covid-19 testing facilities in Dumfries and Galloway to be taken directly to care homes to test all staff and residents on a regular basis, in a bid to curb the virus in the region.

Speaking during virtual Health Questions in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, Colin Smyth urged the Government to ensure that mobile Covid-19 testing facilities be taken to all care homes and challenged Health Secretary Jeane Freeman over why care home workers in the region were being asked to travel excessive distances for testing.

During virtual questions Colin Smyth said: “A carer contacted me following an outbreak of Covid-19.

“She was asymptomatic, but was worried about the health of her family, as she had been given personal protective equipment only a couple of days before the outbreak.

“She applied for a test at the national health service facility in Dumfries and was told that she would have to travel to Stranraer in order to be tested.

“That is 75 miles away. Is the cabinet secretary confident that care workers who want to be tested are being given one by the NHS and that they do not have to travel excessive distances to get it?

“The mobile testing should surely take the form of NHS teams travelling to care homes to carry out regular tests on care staff and residents, regardless of whether there is an outbreak, rather than carers having to travel for tests.”

Speaking after the virtual question session, Colin Smyth added: “Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said that the Scottish Government’s testing policy is continuously under review.

“The policy was recently expanded to test all staff and residents where there has been an outbreak and since I asked my question, the Government have announced that they will expand testing further to cover all care homes whether there has been an outbreak or not. However, that expansion will only cover staff in homes where there hasn’t been an outbreak but not the care home residents.

“It is also clear that the Government’s rhetoric isn’t matched by reality. The existing policy of testing all staff and residents where there has been an outbreak hasn’t been implemented in Dumfries and Galloway. I have spoken to a number of carers across the region frustrated that they have to ask for a test even when there is an outbreak in their care home. Even when they are given a test appointment, a number of carers have told me they are often asked to travel, in some cases, a considerable distance to get that test.

“We know from the situation we’ve seen across the UK and beyond that care homes and the dedicated staff who work in them are very vulnerable to outbreaks of this terrible disease and we also know that more testing is vital as we slowly move out of lockdown. I will continue to push for this as a matter of priority.”

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