Tests that can rule out Covid-19 in 15 to 30 minutes are to be made available to care home visitors in five areas of Scotland from Monday.

Lateral flow testing will be piloted in 14 homes in North Ayrshire, Fife, Argyll and Bute, Inverclyde and Aberdeenshire from Monday, before being rolled out to other areas across the country.

In England, a pilot visitor-testing programme has been under way for two weeks in 20 homes in low-infection areas. Visting was due to get underway today.

The UK government said where testing was available, residents would be able to have visits from up to two visitors each week, regardless of which tier they were in.

READ MORE: Covid vaccination programme to begin in Scotland in six days 

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Last week the Health Secretary announced the introduction of lateral flow testing for designated visitors to care homes.

"As of today, it has been confirmed the delivery of this will be sped up so that testing kits will be rolled out to all care homes across Scotland from 14 December onwards.

“From next Monday 7 December, lateral flow testing will be trialled in 14 early care home early adopters in North Ayrshire, Fife, Argyll and Bute, Inverclyde and Aberdeenshire, so that guidance and training for care home staff can be tested ahead of the wider roll out over December. 

“For any care homes unable to make use of lateral flow tests before Christmas, PCR testing of visitors will be available when necessary to facilitate visiting over the festive period.

READ MORE: Coronavirus Scotland: Glasgow tops weekly death chart 

“However, it’s important to remember that testing is just one layer of protection, and all layers – reducing contacts, keeping our distance, wearing face coverings, and vaccines when they come – work most effectively to stop the virus when they are used together.”  

Some  councils in England including Liverpool and Sheffield are reported to have delayed using the tests amid fears they lack accuracy. Liverpool city council has decided that each visitor needs two tests, 24 hours apart, before they can be allowed in.

Lateral flow tests deliver a significant number of false negatives, according to a study by Public Health England and Oxford University.

The study found that of all people to have been found to have Covid using the gold-standard PCR test, which is processed in a laboratory, 77% tested positive on the lateral flow tests.