Roadmap to Normality?
With the good news that there is now a plan in place for ending lockdown restrictions, what changes can those with relatives in care homes expect?
First things first: what is the Government roadmap for bringing us out of lockdown?
Restrictions will be lifted in four steps, with each of the steps being separated by a gap of five weeks:
- four weeks to make sure that the data collected reflects the changes in restrictions
- and one additional week to give people notice of what restrictions will be eased
Four tests will then be applied to each step and must be passed before moving on to the next step:
1. The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
2. Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
3. Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
4. The Government’s assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern (i.e. new versions of the virus)
Enacting step one will coincide with everyone in the top four vaccine priority cohorts having received their first dose of vaccine and having developed the necessary protection. As part of the first step, which begins on Monday 8th March, care home residents will be allowed one regular visitor. However, this visitor will be subject to lateral flow testing every time they visit and will be required to wear full PPE. During this time, care homes will be encouraged to continue facilitating the visits of loved ones, through the use of screens, visiting pods and other measures.
If after step one the four tests are passed, step two will bring more easing of restrictions. It is anticipated that two visitors per resident will be allowed, with updated guidelines being published closer to the time. Decisions about further easing of restrictions will be made as and when additional data become available.
The pathway to normality is not an easy one, and is particularly difficult to predict for the hard hit care home sector. There are many complexities that have not been discussed here that can affect the success of easing of restrictions, which includes slower uptake of vaccinations by care home workers despite being part of that top four vaccine priority cohort. It is hoped that as we move forward over the next four months, the roadmap laid out by the Government is one that holds, and a sense of normality can return just in time for the summer.
Please note that the views expressed here are those of the author alone and not necessarily those of any other person or organisation.