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DUP South Antrim MLA and Vice-Chair of the Assembly’s Health Committee Pam Cameron has urged the Health Minister to ensure that domiciliary care staff are prioritised as part of plans to pilot rapid testing and roll-out a Covid-19 vaccine across Northern Ireland.

Speaking after highlighting the need to ensure these providers are not overlooked as part of the current public health response during Thursday’s Committee, Mrs Cameron said:

‘‘There are in the region of 270,000 people in Northern Ireland receiving care in their own homes every week. The dedicated staff who are providing this essential service are rightly concerned about the risks of carrying the virus as they move from household to household. It is critical that the Minister reexamines the issue of testing to explore how access to this important tool can be enhanced for independent providers especially.

Given that Covid can present with no symptoms at all, any pilot of the four million lateral flow tests ordered by the Department may hold value for home care workers. It is important that their needs are accounted for in any strategy for rapid testing in the coming weeks.’’

DUP Upper Bann MLA Jonathan Buckley, who is also a member of the Health Committee, added:

‘‘There is a real onus on Robin Swann to confirm the number of home care workers and residents being tested for Covid-19 on a weekly basis and how many have received the winter flu vaccine to date. No stone should go unturned as we seek to minimise risk to those in receipt of this care. Moving forward it is key that the roll-out of a Covid vaccine includes this group of frontline workers.

Concern has also been raised about whether Covid-19 deaths of those receiving home care are being recorded. It is critical that we have a detailed and accurate picture of the impact of the virus on the most vulnerable regardless of whether they live in a care setting or their own home. This way we can ensure rapid learning and put in place the greatest level of protection.

I would encourage the Minister to address these concerns as soon as possible.’’