Transmission from care home staff to residents could be a more significant route of coronavirus infection than when residents are discharged from hospital, documents suggests.
A meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said that for every resident who tests positive for the virus, there were approximately four positive cases among care home staff.
The document, dated September 24 and published on Friday, also acknowledged the “growing evidence” of the negative mental health and wellbeing impacts of isolation on care home residents and their families.
Minutes from a meeting of experts advising the Government warned that cases and outbreaks in care homes were beginning to increase again across the UK.
“The concurrent ratio of positive tests in care staff to residents was approximately 4:1 (high confidence) suggesting potential staff to resident transmission,” the document said.
“Current evidence suggests discharge from hospitals may be less significant, and transmission from staff may be more significant, but quantification is difficult without better data linkage.”
The document said there was evidence of multiple routes of infection into care homes, including direct admission of residents, through staff and through visitors.
“Understanding the different routes of transmission and their relative impact is critical,” it added.
The document urged policymakers to balance the negative mental health and wellbeing impacts of isolation on care home residents and their families against the transmission risk.
Testing technology in the future may enable visitors to be rapidly tested for Covid-19 prior to visits, it adds.
In April, it was announced that coronavirus tests will be extended to all residents and staff in care homes – regardless of whether they have symptoms.
Staffing is one of several factors thought to have played a part in the spread of Covid-19 within care homes during the first wave of the pandemic, with employees often working between different sites.
Other factors were said to include the rapid discharge of thousands of hospital patients and struggles to access personal protective equipment (PPE) and regular tests.