Leading article

Universal testing in care homes is urgently needed

The level of deaths linked to coronavirus in care homes across Ireland and Britain is already deeply alarming and may well have been significantly understated.

With the total number of fatalities in Northern Ireland alone having passed the 600 mark, it is generally accepted that at least half, and probably considerably more, have been associated with residential centres..

The elderly, as we sadly know, are hugely vulnerable during the pandemic, and, in circumstances where they are living close to each other in the same relatively small complex, the risk increases sharply.

Testing of all residents will not provide a solution, but it will help the authorities to assess the full scale of the crisis and determine exactly which measures need to be taken immediately.

The Commissioner for Older People, Eddie Lynch, as we reported on Saturday, has been consistently proposing that universal testing in care homes should be immediately rolled out.

Matt Hancock, the UK health minister, offered an unsatisfactory response to direct questions on a range of fronts put to him by The Irish News during an online press conference from Downing Street on Friday but has at least said he intends that all residents and staff in care homes will be tested by early June.

His Stormont counterpart Robin Swann has said he is committed to an equally comprehensive programme but Mr Lynch, who has been highlighting the issue for a prolonged period, is entitled to suggest that, given all the circumstances, a more robust response is urgently required.

There is abundant evidence that people of working age and younger can expect, in the vast majority of cases, to fully recover from Covid-19 but senior citizens face much graver dangers across the board.

It is a tragedy of enormous proportions that so many people from a generation which has made a wonderful contribution to our society are either seriously ill or have already been taken prematurely from us.

We plainly need to identify all the negative factors behind the statistics and make every possible effort to prevent the spread of a disease which has already had such a calamitous impact. If universal testing in our care homes can help with this process, it should be introduced at once.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access