Care providers say protective face masks must remain where older and vulnerable people are being looked after even after lockdown restrictions are completely lifted.
They are also worried about the impact of a ‘free for all’ if all restrictions on visiting in care and nursing homes are lifted alongside other renewed freedoms.
This comes after health and social care secretary Sajid Javid announced plans to revoke all social distancing guidance, as well as the legal requirement to wear face coverings, on July 19 in the House of Commons yesterday (July 5).
Guidance and good sense
Sajid Javid said: ‘Our national response to Covid-19 will change, from one of rules and regulations to one of guidance and good sense.
‘We will revoke all social distancing guidance, including the two-metre rule, except for in some specific settings, such as ports of entry and medical settings, where it makes sense for those to continue.
‘It will no longer be a legal requirement to wear face coverings in any setting, including on public transport, although we advise this as a voluntary measure for crowded and enclosed spaces.
‘It will no longer be necessary to work from home. There will be no limits on the number of people you can meet. There will be no limits on the number of people who can attend life events, like weddings and funerals, and no restrictions on communal worship and singing.
‘We will remove legal requirements on how businesses operate. Capacity caps will all be lifted, and there will no longer be a requirement to offer table service. All businesses forced to close their doors because of the pandemic will be able to open them once again.
‘And we will lift the cap on named care home visitor numbers so that families can come together in the ways they want to once again.’
However, the Independent Care Group (ICG) has warned that threat to older and vulnerable people of all ages had not gone away.
ICG chair Mike Padgham said: ‘Everyone wants to get life back to normal, but as the prime minister said at the start of his announcement, we are ‘very far from the end of dealing with this virus’.
‘Cases are still rising and those people of all ages being looked after in care and nursing homes, as well as in their own homes, remain the most vulnerable to Covid-19.
‘I would therefore say that masks should remain compulsory for all those working in and visiting care settings for the foreseeable future.
‘I also believe that care settings have to remain vigilant and careful around visiting and not let it become a free for all.
‘In case people need reminding, we have lost 32,000 people in care and nursing homes to Covid-19 – we don’t want to lose any more mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles or friends.
‘Yes, we welcome a return to some freedoms but believe me, nobody in the social care sector is demob happy quite yet.’
An end to loneliness
Kathryn Smith, chief executive of the Social Care Institute for Excellence said she hoped the easing of restrictions would bring an end to some of the isolation people living in care homes have been feeling. Adding that the views of those who wish to continue social distancing must be respected.
‘For many, I’m sure that this will be seen as great news, for both those living in care homes who are desperate to see their friends and relatives and of course those friends and relatives.
‘It is the news that many have waited 16 months for and it is absolutely right that people living in care homes are afforded the same rights as everyone else in the community.
‘However, it is still important to recognise that where people live in a communal setting it is never straightforward, and so we must respect the views of individual residents, family members and staff, who might be nervous of such a change so quickly.
‘Many will want to see a continuation of social distancing, for instance, as well as perhaps choosing to continue with personal protective equipment such as masks.
‘But, it is positive that we can see an end to some of the isolation people living in care homes have been feeling, and we can now hopefully look forward to putting the worst of Covid-19 behind us and securing the reform in care and support that is such a big issue at the top of the political agenda.’
The Department of Health and Social Care has been contacted for comment.
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