Holyrood has been given almost £60 million to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 infections in care homes.
The UK Government has made £600 million available to the nations and regions in a bid to “stop the transmission of coronavirus in care homes, minimise infections and keep staff and residents safe”.
Figures published yesterday show that across the UK more than 12,500 people living in care homes have so far died with Covid-19.
In all, 33,998 people have died from Covid-19 in the UK, a rise of 384 in the last 24 hours.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock, speaking at the daily Downing Street press briefing, said the fund was designed to “put a protective ring around our care homes”.
The cash came as it was revealed UK trials for specially-trained “covid dogs”, that may be able to detect coronavirus in humans, even before symptoms appear, were set to begin as part of new research.
The trial will establish whether the dogs could be used as a potential new non-invasive, early warning measure to detect coronavirus in future.
World-leading researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) will carry out the first phase of a trial in collaboration with the charity Medical Detection Dogs and Durham University, backed by £500,000 of government funding.
Innovation minister Lord Bethell said: “Bio-detection dogs already detect specific cancers and we believe this innovation might provide speedy results as part of our wider testing strategy.
“Accuracy is essential so this trial will tell us whether ‘covid dogs’ can reliably detect the virus and stop it spreading.”
Professor James Logan, lead researcher on the trial, said: “Our previous work has shown that malaria has a distinctive odour, and with Medical Detection Dogs, we successfully trained dogs to accurately detect malaria.
“This, combined with the knowledge that respiratory disease can change body odour, makes us hopeful that the dogs can also detect Covid-19.”
The dogs could prove vital in future, as it was revealed the virus may never be defeated entirely.
Deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries, appearing at the daily Downing Street briefing, said it was an “ambitious target” to stamp coronavirus out completely in the UK.
“There isn’t an immediate, easy outcome to this to get us to Level One of the government’s Covid alert levels.
“Smallpox is the only infectious disease where we have actually eradicated a disease but of course there is an example there so I think having that ambition is good.”