CARE home visitors could be screened for coronavirus amid accusations that relaxing restrictions despite soaring cases of the virus is "ill-advised".

On Monday, the Scottish Government announced that indoor visits to care homes by loved ones will no longer be limited to 30 minutes and can last up to four hours.

Visitors will be able to hold hands with residents as long as rules are followed and up to six visitors from two households, including children, will be able to attend outdoor visits which can last up to one hour.

But concerns have been raised about the “premature and ill-thought-out” measures by the chairman of a company which runs 25 care homes across Scotland – as the virus continues to spread.

READ MORE: Coronavirus in Scotland: care home visiting rules relaxed

Tony Banks, chairman of Balhousie Care Group, has decided not to relax the previous restrictions due to the virus threat.

He said: “While we welcome improved and enhanced care home visits, and fully appreciate the wellness benefits more visits would bring our residents, Monday's announcement was premature and ill-thought-out.

“Why, in the middle of another sharp spike in community transmissions of Covid-19, would we relax our rules and put our residents and staff at possible risk of infection?”

READ MORE: Coronavirus Scotland: Tougher tier could be added to traffic light system

Asked about the decision to ease restrictions on care home visits against the backdrop of rising cases and deaths, Nicola Sturgeon said it was not a “free for all” for care homes to allow more visiting as they still have to meet safety requirements such as routine testing of staff and be free of Covid-19 for 28 days.

She added: I would stress it is guidance, not a diktat that all care homes must have that level of visiting if there are risk factors.”

Ms Sturgeon also said work is continuing to transfer the processing of routine tests of health and social care staff from the UK-wide network to NHS Scotland.

She said those visiting care homes are “clearly” a group who may be considered for asymptomatic coronavirus testing in an effort to protect vulnerable people.

READ MORE: Coronavirus Scotland: National care service 'a distraction'

Ms Sturgeon said: “Our initial, top priority focus in extending testing is protection of vulnerable groups.

“Those groups – and care homes are definitely one of them – where if the virus gets into them, it does really bad damage.

“So people going in and out of care homes is clearly one such group that we would look to consider for testing in the future.”

She added: “Obviously, that then raises the logistical issues about how exactly that would be done, how often visitors to care homes would have to be tested.

“These are the practical things that will now be considered before we reach a decision on that.”

Ms Sturgeon suggested MSPs will consider routine testing for care home visitors when Holyrood returns from the October recess.

READ MORE: Coronavirus Scotland: NHS Louisa Jordan 'not on alert' as hospital cases soar

Scottish Conservative health spokesman, Donald Cameron, said: “Having a robust testing regime in place is absolutely essential in stopping the virus spread through our care homes.

"Scotland’s care homes have already been badly let down by the SNP Government during this pandemic, and as cases increase again, they must be fully protected."

Scottish Greens Holyrood co-leader, Alison Johnstone, has warned the Scottish Governments to avoid a repeat of initial care home problems.

She said:“The mistakes that led to the virus ripping through care homes early in the pandemic risk being repeated unless immediate action is taken to protect care home residents and staff.

“It’s clear that the virus is once again out of control and the First Minister’s claims to the contrary simply don’t wash.

“Scottish Greens have repeatedly highlighted that reliance on the UK’s broken privatised testing system is too risky, and that Scotland needs to increase the capacity of NHS labs and introduce mass testing.

“The Scottish Government has been telling us for weeks that it plans to move care home testing from the UK Government’s failed privatised system into NHS Scotland labs. The Health Secretary must urgently explain why this hasn’t yet happened and when it will. Continued delays are intolerable.

“Only by introducing a robust test, trace and self-isolate system can we truly bring this virus under control.“