Devon’s care home providers say measures to control the spread of coronavirus will remain in place in care homes beyond 19 July.
It follows the announcement this week by the Prime Minister of his intention to end current restrictions this month, including the requirement to wear face coverings and to socially distance.
Care home providers say their residents are extremely vulnerable. Visits from family and friends are important but it is vital that they protect residents from Covid-19 and other infectious illnesses that are currently circulating in the community.
They say that care homes will continue following public health measures at a local level, to protect the health of their residents and staff.
Those measures are likely to include the requirement for visitors to wear face coverings unless exempt, to socially distance, to wear Personal Protective Equipment if needed, to follow hand hygiene guidance, and to check-in for Test and Trace purposes.
Bev Watton, Registered Manager of Ebberly House, Barnstaple, said: “Since care homes have been able to welcome back visitors for residents, we have worked very hard to ensure that all of the necessary measures are in place to minimise risk, to residents and staff. All our relatives, staff and residents are used to these measures and understand why they are there. Whilst cases continue to rise and the risk of Covid is present, it’s important that we continue to use them.
“For the time being, we will be asking families and visitors to let us know in advance of their visit, and we will advise them of what our current restrictions are.
“In a worst-case scenario, if say someone in the home has tested positive for coronavirus, we also reserve the right to temporarily stop visits, just for that period.
“We want visits to continue, they are so important to the home and to both families and residents. It’s been such a tough few months, so to enable residents to spend more time with their family and friends is wonderful, but we need them to be safe.”
Lucy Bull of the Devon Care Home Collaboration, said: “Care homes by nature are homes to many of our most vulnerable residents. We’ve been working with our members to support the ever changing guidance on visitors and PPE in care homes. So whilst it’s understandable that most of the country will be opening up on the 19th July, those of us in the care sector are very aware that the risk is still very present.
“All residents have been offered double vaccinations, as have all of our staff. But vaccinations alone are not sufficient to prevent people catching coronavirus and spreading it
“If residents, many who have underlying health concerns, develop coronavirus, they may become seriously ill.
“If care workers catch coronavirus, or they develop symptoms of having coronavirus, they have to self-isolate, putting more pressure on the rest of the care team. So there are also workforce implications, and good reasons to keep the measures in place that minimise risk.”
The UK government has stated that Covid-19 vaccines are significantly reducing the link between infections and severe disease and death. However, it has also warned that the pandemic is not over.
Cases are currently rising, as are hospitalisations. The government has stated that cases, hospitalisations and, sadly, deaths, are likely rise further as society and the economy reopen.
The government announced on 12th July that it plans to proceed with Step 4 of the roadmap out of lockdown on 19th July.
Under Step 4:
– In care homes, the Government will lift restrictions that limit each resident to five named visitors. Specific guidance will advise how visits should be conducted to keep care homes safe whilst also making visits as normal as possible. Care homes will need to retain infection prevention and control measures essential to protecting residents from the risk of infection
– For individual settings where the risks of rapid spread are particularly acute, Directors of Public Health, in consultation with setting operators and relevant departments, will be able to advise that social distancing is put in place if necessary to control outbreaks.
Councillor James McInnes, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for adult care and health, said: “Care homes are one, but there are other settings including GP practices, that will still require people to follow the current public health measures beyond 19 July, specifically around the wearing of face coverings and social distancing.
“And that’s for obvious reasons. Coronavirus and other airborne viruses spread easily indoors and where people are in close proximity to each other. Bringing coronavirus into a care home is the last thing anyone wants, so it’s vital that measures to prevent that remain in place.
“The government has lifted the restriction on the number of visitors to care home residents. They will continue to do all they can to facilitate safe visits to residents, but visitors must also respect the requirement to follow whatever restrictions the care home has, and what is asked of them. We all still have a part to play in helping prevent the spread of coronavirus.”
Devon’s lead Chief nurse Darryn Allcorn said: “While many of us are looking forward to the relaxation of restrictions, Covid-19 and other infectious illnesses are still circulating in the community.
“In health settings and care homes you may still be asked to wear a mask and socially distance. This is to protect our services and, more importantly, the most vulnerable people in our society. Please respect these rules and the staff who ask you to abide by them.”
Lifting restrictions does not mean that the risks from Covid-19 have disappeared. Instead it marks a new phase in the government’s response to the pandemic during which people need to manage the risks to themselves and others as the country learns to live with the virus. The government’s advisory guidance under Step 4 of the roadmap out of lockdown includes meeting in well-ventilated spaces, wearing a face covering in enclosed and crowded spaces, regular handwashing, staying at home if you are unwell and considering people’s individual risks such as clinical vulnerabilities.
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