New measures will be taken to protect patients in care as it was revealed a quarter of deaths involving Covid-19 in Scotland have been in care homes.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said all residents showing symptoms of the disease will now be tested.
New figures released by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) revealed that, as of Sunday, 962 people with confirmed or suspected coronavirus had died in Scotland.
Of those registered deaths, 237 (24.6%) occurred in care homes. 586 were in hospitals, 128 in homes and one in another location.
Nicola Sturgeon told ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme that she now accepted that PPE is not being prioritised for hospitals in England
The weekly NRS figures account for all deaths registered in Scotland when Covid-19 was mentioned in the death certificate.
These statistics differ from the daily deaths announced by the Scottish Government, which only include cases where a laboratory has confirmed a positive diagnosis.
Announcing the daily figures, Nicola Sturgeon said a total of 699 patients have died in Scotland after testing positive for coronavirus, up by 84 from 615 on Tuesday.
Some 6,748 people have now tested positive for the virus in Scotland, up by 390 from 6,358 the day before.
There are 195 people in intensive care with coronavirus or coronavirus symptoms, a decrease of one on Tuesday, and 1,748 people are in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19.
Ms Sturgeon said 433 Scottish care homes have recorded cases of coronavirus and announced all symptomatic residents will be tested from now on, instead of just the first person showing Covid-19 symptoms in a home.
But she said she has ‘no evidence’ that more testing of care home residents and staff at an earlier stage could have reduced the number of deaths.
The First Minister added the Scottish Government will be ‘moving as quickly possible’ to expand testing to all symptomatic care home residents but stressed it is ‘not strictly necessary’ and will be done to give confidence to relatives, staff and the wider public.
Ms Sturgeon confirmed symptomatic care home workers will also be tested.
She said: ‘We already test the first residents in any care home to become symptomatic of coronavirus in order to establish the presence of the virus in that home and then ensure that all appropriate measures are taken to protect all residents.
‘However, we’re moving now to test all symptomatic patients in care homes.
‘The advice to me is that while this is not strictly necessary, nor will it change the clinical management of cases at care homes, it is nevertheless important for the confidence of relatives staff and the wider public, given the vulnerability of care homes.
‘But let me also stress that guidance to care homes is already very clear about isolation and social distancing, and that remains the most important factor in making sure that we’re managing and preventing infections in care homes.’
The interim chief medical officer, Dr Gregor Smith, confirmed increased testing will not change the measures care homes take in the event of a positive diagnosis.
He said: ‘The most important part is to make sure that the risk assessment of how those patients are shielded from the risk of infection, and that infection prevention and control mechanisms are in place within each one of those care homes and are maximised to prevent further spread.’
Ms Sturgeon said people leaving hospital to return to care homes in Scotland will not be routinely tested, in contrast to England.
She said testing people not showing symptoms is unreliable and she does not want to give care homes ‘false assurance’ that a person returning is not infected, arguing it could cause staff to wrongly relax infection control measures.
Following the release of the latest statistics, Age Scotland chief executive Brian Sloan called for assurances that ‘care home residents have fair and equal access to medical treatment’.
He said: ‘It is devastating to learn that 237 care home residents in Scotland have died as a result of coronavirus. The fear we have had over the past few weeks about the impact this is having on some of the people most at risk has now sadly become a reality.
‘No age group is immune but these grim figures highlight once again the devastating effect that this virus has on the lives of older people.
‘Each and every death is a tragic loss to those who knew and loved them. Care homes must be supported with everything they need to prevent and stop the spread of this virus among residents and staff.’