New Covid-19 variant and best practices for Autumn / Winter
On Friday 8 September the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) issued its latest update on the Covid-19 BA.2.86 variant. We understand that the news of the new variant is concerning, so we wanted to give you and update and remind you of the existing government guidance on Covid-19.
As of the 4 September 2023 the UKHSA has confirmed that 34 cases of BA.2.86 have been identified in England. Of these, five were hospitalised and no deaths due to Covid-19 have been reported amongst these cases.
The government had already taken the precautionary step of bringing forward the NHS’s Autumn/Winter vaccination programme, as this is the best way to boost the immunity of those most vulnerable to coronavirus, and this has begun in care homes in England.
We ask that you continue to promote the measures outlined below:
Encourage staff and residents to take up the latest Covid-19 and flu vaccinations when these are offered.
Vaccination teams are now contacting providers and people who are homebound to arrange visits. They have been asked to ensure all eligible care home residents are vaccinated by 22 October.
- Staff working in residential care settings should have by now commenced the consenting process with residents to ensure maximum take up when vaccination teams visit.
- Staff are encouraged to book their vaccinations as early as possible via the Local Booking Services from 11 September, and the National Booking Service (NBS) from 18 September. Appointments can also be booked via the NHS App, or through 119.
Support people eligible for Covid-19 treatments
Providers should closely monitor individuals who are eligible for Covid-19 treatments to ensure they can be supported to test as soon as possible for Covid-19, and access appropriate treatment if they test positive.
- Providers should check ‘eligibility criteria’ for Covid-19 treatments (or with a health professional such as a GP) when a resident is newly diagnosed with an ongoing condition which may make them eligible.
Ensure tests are available to be used in line with guidance.
- We encourage providers to ensure they have enough tests to test anyone eligible for Covid-19 treatments if they develop respiratory symptoms, and also to test up to the first 5 linked symptomatic residents in a care home if multiple residents develop symptoms.
- Residential care services can continue to order LFD tests from the national ordering portal.
Ensure PPE is available to be used in line with risk assessments
- Use PPE where appropriate and ensure this is available for staff and visitors.
- Care workers and visitors do not routinely need to wear a face mask in care settings or when providing care in people’s home. However, they should be worn if:
- A person being cared for is suspected or known to have COVID-19
- In the event of a care home outbreak.
- If a care recipient would prefer staff or visitors to where a mask while providing care
Contact your local health protection team or other local partner if there are concerns.
- In the event of multiple cases in residential settings, guidance sets out the steps that can be taken under normal circumstances.
- Support remains available from local health protection teams (HPT) or other relevant local partners to provide advice on measures if there are issues of concern, as set out in guidance.
- For outbreaks of infectious diseases in all settings, please report directly to UKHSA: by emailing swhpt@UKHSA.gov.uk OR telephoning 0300 303 8162. This phone number is monitored out of hours and at weekends for urgent queries.