Welsh Government has expanded coronavirus testing to all care homes in Wales.
The previous policy meant only staff and patients at care homes with more than 50 residents, or where Covid-19 was present or people were symptomatic, were tested.
The decision follows calls by many in the care sector to expand testing policy in line with England.
The change means all patients and members of staff in all care homes are now eligible for testing.
Speaking over the weekend, Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething said: “How we tackle coronavirus continually changes as we receive more emerging evidence and scientific advice.
“We have been very clear in our approach that our strategy is about reducing harm first and we will adapt policies in order to do this.
“Today is a step change in how we will be testing in care homes, adapting our policy so that every resident and member of staff can be tested for coronavirus.
First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford had previously said there was “no value” in providing testing to everybody in care homes.
There are concerns the decision to reverse this position has not come quickly enough.
Plaid Cymru’s Delyth Jewell, MS for South Wales East, said: “The tragic cases of Covid-19 in care homes and its prevalence within them should have been an early wake-up call for the Welsh Government that testing everyone was a necessary life-saving step.
“The refusal to do so up to now should be the subject of examination in the future inquiry.”
Several organisations had called for the changes earlier, one of which is the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales (OPCW).
Welcoming the decision, OPCW’s Heléna Herklots said: “People living and working in care homes in Wales, and their families and friends, will be hugely relieved that testing will now be available to residents and staff in all care homes in Wales, following today’s announcement from the Welsh Government.
“I called for testing to be made available to all care homes in Wales at the end of April, and while this announcement is welcome, there will no doubt be questions about why it took until now for the Welsh Government to change its policy on testing.
“It’s now crucial that the testing promised is delivered quickly and effectively throughout Wales.
“As the information on the policy provided by the Welsh Government is limited, I will be seeking clarity on a number of details, particularly in terms of turnaround times for tests, and the need for individuals to potentially be tested multiple times.
“Alongside this, I will continue to monitor and scrutinise the action being taken by the Welsh Government – on testing and a range of other measures – to ensure that people living and working in care homes in Wales are kept safe and protected.”
Hefin David, MS for Caerphilly, welcomed the news, adding: “Any change in testing must be made on the basis of clinical advice in order to keep all residents safe. Any expansion of testing on that basis is to be welcomed.”
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Speaking at the Welsh Government’s daily press briefing, Mr Drakeford confirmed there will be a different process for testing applications for people from homes that have Covid-19 or where symptoms are present, and in homes where there is no sign of the virus.
For homes where the virus is present, staff and residents will be referred for testing by their local health board and results will be received between 24 and 48 hours later.
In homes where the virus is not present and nobody is symptomatic, individuals will have to access testing through a portal on the UK Government website.
Welsh Government scrapped its own portal over the weekend in favour of the UK-wide approach.
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Latest information on Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Most cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) seem to be mild.
Coronavirus is a viral disease that can cause coughing, fever and difficulty breathing. It can be more severe in older people, those with weakened immune systems and some long-term conditions like diabetes or cancer.
Source: Public Health Wales