NICOLA Sturgeon has been accused of failing care homes “all over again” after admitting the routine testing of staff announced more than two weeks ago is still not up to speed.

The First Minister said Covid testing for 53,000 care home staff was “underway and progressing”, rather than fully operational, despite being announced on May 18.

She was unable to say how many staff had been being tested since the offer was made.

The admission came as official statistics revealed the total number of coronavirus deaths in Scotland’s care homes have now overtaken those in hospitals.

At First Minister’s Questions, opposition parties questioned why care home staff were not showing up in the daily testing data, which has not risen as expected.

Only 4,791 tests were conduced in Scotland on Tuesday out of a 15,500 capacity.

Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw said that if all care home staff were being tested regularly, that group alone would need more than 7000 tests each day.

He said that one major provider - Renaissance Care - reported barely half of its staff had been tested for Covid-19, despite the Scottish Government’s promise.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard also raised the case of a care home worker who had been trying to get a test from NHS Lanarkshire for weeks without success.

Asked by Mr Carlaw how many care home workers had been regularly tested for Covid, Ms Sturgeon was unable to put a number on it.

She said: “The programme of regular and routine testing of care home staff is under way. “When we have robust and reliable figures to report from that, we will report those regularly.”

Mr Carlaw said that, with 7000 tests a day needed for routine testing of care workers, the current data “does not add up”.

He said: “Why are care homes being failed again? Surely, by now, mobile testing teams or general practitioners should have visited every care home in Scotland. 

“Is the First Minister’s Government not letting care homes down all over again?”

Ms Sturgeon replied: “No is my immediate answer to that. I

“Testing is important. That is why we have extended the numbers and the groups of people that we are testing. The programme of care home worker testing is under way and will continue; it will then be routine and regular.

“If it is helpful to the chamber, the health secretary will set out more details of that programme and, as I said, we will set out the data from that when it is available.”

Mr Carlaw said the reality on the ground was “disappointing”.

He said: “Is it not the case that yet more mistakes are unfolding right now in our care homes and that those mistakes may yet lead to more deaths?

“It will not be possible to blame those failings on hindsight, will it?” 

The First Minister said: “I do not blame anything on anything. I take responsibility for the Government’s handling of and response to the coronavirus.

“I do that daily, and I do it - rightly and properly - in the chamber.

"The programme of care home worker testing is on-going.

"As I said, we will publish the figures and then people will be able to track them. 

“The testing will require to be regular and routine, which I think was... different in Scotland from how it was anticipated to be elsewhere in the UK.”

The Tories also published their own critique of the SNP’s handling of the pandemic.

The party said ‘Testing and the coronavirus: the record in Scotland’ showed there had been major shortcomings in the SNP’s approach on testing from the outset, with Scotland having one of the poorest testing records in the world as a result. 

Mr Carlaw said later: “Lessons about coronavirus testing in care homes should have been learned weeks ago.

“But instead, the SNP is failing care homes, their staff and their residents all over again.

“It has now been a fortnight since the SNP government said all staff would be routinely tested for Covid-19.

“However, it’s clear from testing figures that this drive has fallen woefully short. The fact the First Minister is so reluctant to provide statistics on this shows that she knows it.

“It would take around 7000 tests a day to ensure all care home staff were covered – but the SNP can’t even get close to that figure on the whole, let alone just for these workers.

“The World Health Organisation urged governments across the world to ‘test, test, test’.

“The SNP’s approach has been dither, delay and distract.”

Mr Leonard said there had been a "consistent disconnect" between the Scottish Government’s promises and its record on delivery, with its focus on "generating headlines rather than delivering for workers on the front line".

The Labour leader said he had spoken to a care worker who had inquired about a test with her employer and NHS Lanarkshire after the First Minister announced plans for regular testing of staff in the sector last month, but was rejected.

The health board told Mr Leonard it was "working through the operational implications" of the new policy, and the woman had still not been tested.

He said: "She's concerned about her family and for the vulnerable people that she cares for."

Ms Sturgeon replied: "This is a programme that is under way and progressing."

She added Health Secretary Jeane Freeman would outline the details of the delivery of regular testing to care home staff, but did not give a time frame.

Ms Sturgeon also said it was her responsibility and that of her ministers to ensure Scottish people were confident in the way they were handling the virus.

She said: "Without minimising the tragedy we see the number of deaths overall and the number of deaths in care homes declining significantly, which says that the package of measures that we have implemented and are delivering in care homes is having the effect that we want it to have.

"We will continue on an ongoing basis to make sure that the policies we are announcing are delivered and that they are delivered consistently, and we publish the data that allows all of that to be scrutinised and for us to be held to account.

"Care home providers have a responsibility, our health protection teams and public health directors have a responsibility and the Scottish Government has a responsibility as well, and it's that collective effort that we will continue to bring to bear."

She also said the first data from the Test and Protect contact tracing system would not be ready until next week, a fortnight after the system launched. 

The First MInister’s official spokesman was later unable to say if even one of Scotland’s 14 regional health boards was routinely testing all the local care home staff yet.

He said policy had been outlined by the Government and it was now for health boards to implement it, and ministers were happy to reiterate that point to them.