Fears over Covid outbreaks as care homes prepare to open for visitors

Elderly woman talking with a doctor while holding hands at home and wearing face protective mask. Wo

Care homes are concerned about the safety of residents and staff after the Government announced family visits are permitted from March 8. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Care home owners are worried about an increase in Covid outbreaks when homes are able to open their doors to family visits next week. 

As part of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown, care home residents will be allowed one indoor visitor from Monday. 

While homes are keen to reunite residents with loved ones, there are huge concerns this will also open them up to the virus.  

Gordon Butcher, regional chairman of the Registered Nursing Home Association, said: "The sector is keen as everyone else in returning to some form of normality, but the Government’s decision to allow visitation on the 8th is met with a level of vexation. 

“We have on the one hand the Government stressing the need to remain distancing; the transmission rates still too high to allow household visits.

"If it’s still irresponsible for us to visit healthy family members and friends, then I ask; why is it then safe to visit the very frail and sick? 

“The sector asked the Government for all care staff and residents to have both vaccines before they opened the doors, but the Government rejected our request, saying we would have to wait 12 weeks for the second vaccine like everyone else.” 

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According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, 1,971 residents died of the virus in the week ending January 29. Thirteen care homes in Weston also reported serious Covid outbreaks during that time. 

Visitors will be required to take a lateral flow test before entry and wear PPE, but care homes say there is still a risk to residents.

Gordon said: “We now know that the current PPE provided do not stop the virus once it gets into a care home.  

“The cavities in the side and top of the masks allow the lingering aerosols to be breathed in. We also have to give lateral flow tests to all visitors; but again, the evidence shows that their accuracy can be as low as 49 per cent, leaving a 50/50 risk factor. 

“Downing Street stated that it’s their ‘absolute priority’ to reunite families and give people more social contact as lockdown is eased.  

“Care home owners totally support that goal, but it should (and can) be done with as many safety measures put in place to mitigate any further outbursts and Covid-related deaths. 

“We cannot help but feel that the Government’s decision not to provide the second vaccine three weeks apart leaves the care home sector once more exposed and vulnerable.  

“It’s yet another example of how the care sector is assessed as being politically bearable when it comes to collateral damage.” 

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