Every resident in care homes across the Black Country has either been tested for coronavirus or will be tested in the coming days after proactive swabbing began a few weeks ago.

Health partners in the region have led the way in rolling out proactive swabbing in local care homes whether or not individuals have symptoms of Covid-19, such as a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.

Proactive swabbing of residents got underway in the most ‘high risk’ settings late last month before being rolled out to all local care homes a short time later. All staff members have been offered the test.

In total around 7,500 people living in 274 care homes across Wolverhampton, Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall are being tested. Proactive testing will be repeated on a routine basis going forward.

Speaking on behalf of the four Black Country Directors of Public Health, Lisa McNally from Sandwell, Bal Kaur from Dudley, and Stephen Gunther from Walsall, Wolverhampton’s Director of Public Health John Denley said: “People living in our care homes are among the most vulnerable members of society and we want to do all we can to protect them – and the care staff who are working tirelessly to keep them safe - during this national emergency.

“Proactive swabbing in our region's care homes is playing an important part in our drive to identify and treat cases of coronavirus at an earlier stage and is helping reduce the risk of outbreaks in our care homes as much as possible.

"Through this work, we've been able to identify a number of cases and to support care providers to manage them more appropriately. What is perhaps worth noting is that Covid-19 does not seem to be as endemic in our region’s care homes as may otherwise have been perceived, and that’s testament to the hard work of care staff and the stringent infection control measures our homes have put in place to help prevent the spread of the virus."

Sally Roberts, Chief Nurse for the Black Country and West Birmingham CCGs, said: “Our teams across the NHS are pleased to be working with care homes and our local authorities to identify cases of coronavirus.

“It is important that we do all we can to protect those most vulnerable in our communities and supporting care homes with proactive testing is the latest way we are doing that. Once cases are identified we can better ensure the safety of others in the care home setting.”

Mr Denley added: “Proactive swabbing and testing forms part of a broader package of help offered by the four Black Country councils and the local clinical commissioning groups and NHS trusts, including support and guidance to prevent outbreaks occurring and ensuring the right personal protective equipment is available to frontline staff.

“This work continues, and in the meantime, we all continue to have a role to play in preventing the spread of coronavirus, and that’s why it’s crucial that everyone follows the Government's social distancing measures and stays at home unless absolutely necessary.”