Race to test staff at care homes

Top News | Erin Chan 10 Aug 2020

Covid-19 virus tests will be conducted on thousands of workers at nursing homes, elderly homes and rehabilitation centers for the second time in less than a month, labor and welfare secretary Law Chi-kwong said, following a spate of outbreaks in such homes across the city.

Writing in his blog yesterday, Law said the tests will cover full-time, part-time, substitute and outsourced workers, as well as foreign laborers at these premises.

The social welfare department had previously collected over 32,600 throat-swab test samples from 86 percent of such workers across 1,048 care homes between July 14 and August 4, he said.

Law said that although only one swab came back positive, it does not reflect the full story, as two care workers were diagnosed as infected even before the collection of test samples started.

"Although the staff themselves are not considered a high-risk cluster, the consequences will be serious once frail residents of care homes are infected due to the virus brought by the staff."

Law said the department will give self-financing care homes guidelines on inspecting their infection control, and encourage them to do so in the coming two weeks, as well as sending doctors to advise on virus prevention.

"The government hopes to enhance the awareness of the care homes' frontline workers, including care workers and assistants, in improving the overall hygiene of the environment and containing the spread of the virus." Law also said he is drafting legislative amendments with a view to improve supervision of private care homes.

He said the SWD's working group had provided 19 suggestions on several aspects of residential care homes in September, including their classification, minimum gross floor area, the registration of staff members and penalties.

"Following the suggestions, the government has preliminarily consulted the legco's panel on welfare services, the Elderly Commission, the Social Welfare Advisory Committee and the Rehabilitation Advisory Committee," he said.

"It has also held four exchange sessions on the drafting of legislative amendments related to residential care homes between January and June."

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