The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has written to care homes warning of a rise in Covid-19 infections within the sector.
In a letter to providers, DHSC said testing data revealed an increase in the number of positive results in care homes and action is required to prevent a rise in further cases. The letter urges care bosses to take “necessary action to prevent and limit outbreaks”.
Cases were mainly among staff but risked spreading to residents, it said.
It comes as a further 3,330 positive cases were recorded in the UK – the third consecutive day in which cases have been over 3,000.
It brings the total number of confirmed cases to 368,504.
DHSC director of adult social care delivery Stuart Miller urged care home bosses to test all staff, including agency staff and those without symptoms, every week.
Miller also called on any care homes that have not yet registered for repeat testing to do so, adding it has “no significant backlog and are able to send out test kits within several days of orders being placed” despite recent delays to the rollout.
In addition, Miller stressed the importance of consistent use of PPE due the possibility that staff or residents could become infected prior to the virus being detected.
DHSC meanwhile said it will shortly publish an Adult Social Care Winter Plan following work by the Adult Social Care Covid-19 Taskforce.
The plan will set out the support and resources to be made available nationally, as well as describing the actions for local areas.
Speaking to the BBC, social care provider Mike Padgham regional chairman of the Independent Care Group, said the letter “doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t know already”.
He said there were currently no cases of coronavirus in any of his care homes, but called for clarity around visiting, as the R number – the reproduction rate of Covid-19 – has recently increased.
“At present, things are fairly calm, but we are looking over our shoulder at what is coming next,” he said.
Mr Padgham, said one of his homes had reopened to visitors only last week for the first time since March, but since receiving the letter, he was now wondering if visits were a good idea.
He said his “natural instinct was to allow visits” – in keeping with families’ wishes – but added he “would like more guidance”.
“You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t…” he added.