Positive re-test result “does not necessarily mean risk of transmission” says Home Farm operators

The operators of Home Farm nursing home on Skye have said that Thursday’s positive re-test of a staff member for Covid-19 does not necessarily mean there is a risk of transmission to others in the home.

The nursing home in Portree is now closed to non-essential visitors for a period of 28 days after a staff member re-tested positive for Covid-19 yesterday.

The positive retest was announced on Thursday by NHS Highland, with the local authority stating that the individual had been followed up in line with national guidance and has been advised to isolate.

10 residents died after a major outbreak of coronavirus was detected at the home, which is operated by HC-One, in late April.

Commenting to the Free Press, a spokesperson for HC-One, said that all “appropriate steps” were being taken.

The spokesperson said: “Following a positive retest from a colleague who had experienced a previous coronavirus infection, we are working closely with our local health and care partners and are taking all appropriate steps to respond.

“This includes working with the NHS to carry out retesting for all residents and colleagues as a matter of priority.

“This colleague began isolating immediately following the positive result and we wish them a speedy recovery.

“We have been assured that an ongoing result does not necessarily mean there is a risk of transmission, but we are taking all necessary precautions.

They added: “After careful consideration, and as a precautionary measure, Home Farm is now closed to non-essential visitors and socially distant visits have immediately ceased for 28 days.

“This is not a decision we have made lightly and has been taken in consultation with our health partners, but as a responsible care provider, we feel it is in the best interests of those who live and work at the home.

“Home Farm has continued to have the highest standards of infection control and before this result, the home had seen no new positive tests for 56 days.

“We are continuing to work in partnership with the NHS and our residents are our number one priority.”

On Thursday, a statement released by NHS Highland highlighted that evidence was emerging internationally about Covid-19 and it is now recognised that some people have prolonged positive swab results, and others can have intermittent negative and positive results over many weeks.

It went on to state: “As such, an ongoing positive result does not mean that an individual is still infectious or that they pose a risk to others. However, when combined with new symptoms, it is necessary to adopt a precautionary approach as it is not possible to exclude the potential of a new infection or reactivation.”

“There are no other cases of confirmed Covid-19 infection in the local community or on the rest of Skye and we do not believe there to be an increased risk of Covid-19 infection to the wider community at this time.

“However, the virus can recur even in rural communities and so everyone should continue to adhere to physical distancing guidelines, wear a face-covering when in enclosed spaces, clean your hands and surfaces regularly and immediately self-isolate if you develop symptoms.”

The result marks the second time in less than a month in which a staff member at the Portree nursing home has re-tested positive.

On 23rd June, local MP Ian Blackford. confirmed that a staff member has tested positive for a second time.

The interim chief medical officer Gregor Smith was questioned about re-infection during a Scottish Government coronavirus daily briefing following the positive re-test in June.

In response Dr Smith said that viral fragments could still be picked up in tests many weeks after the initial infection, and these highlighted the challenges which surrounds the testing process.