NONE of the 52 care homes in Wokingham are currently dealing with Covid-19 outbreaks.

That’s  according to councillor John Halsall, leader of Wokingham Borough Council.

He said: “There were outbreaks during the height of the emergency, but now they’re all completely and utterly clean.

“It’s a real complement to our officers and GPs.”

At the end of April, the council defied government guidance and refused to allow hospital patients to be transferred to care homes after they were discharged, unless they tested negative for the virus.

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Cllr Halsall says the Conservative-run council then audited and “cleaned up” every care home in Wokingham, including many which are privately run.

He said: “Most of them wouldn’t have permitted us to have such knowledge of what they were doing and what they operating practices were, for various, sensible reasons.

“We are their major customer, so why would they invite a major customer to find ways of making their service cheaper?

“But now they invite us in like long-lost friends.”

By July 13, there had been 27 outbreaks recorded in 52 Wokingham care homes, according to Office for National Statistics figures.

The figures also show that 77 people have lost their lives to the virus in Wokingham care homes during the pandemic.

This week, the government wrote to care bosses, urging them to take “necessary action to prevent and limit outbreaks” following a stark rise in confirmed cases.

According to the letter, a number of care home staff have become infected in recent weeks and “there is a risk the virus will spread” to residents.

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Wokingham Borough Council has also called on the government to provide more coronavirus tests in Wokingham.

According to the latest figures, 673 people have tested positive in Wokingham and 152 have died after contracting the virus.

Cllr Halsall said: “10 days ago we were alerted in one of our meetings that the government’s lab capacity is being rationed.

“There has been local lockdowns in various places and all the capacity has been shunted to those areas.

“Because we have a very low rate of Covid – it’s tiny – we have less access. Hopefully, the government will expand the capacity.

“At the moment, we’re looking both ways. We’re telling people to get tested under certain circumstances and then we’re saying don’t use spare resources if you don’t really need it.

“That’s an inconsistent message.”