The Government is ‘working on’ allowing care home residents to take trips outside without having to isolate for two weeks, the health and social care secretary has said.
Currently, care home residents must isolate for 14 days after leaving the home to reduce the chance of infecting other residents and staff with Covid-19.
But during yesterday’s Downing Street press conference, Matt Hancock hinted there could be ‘good news’ for residents and their families who are struggling with the isolation restrictions, adding that he was aware of the ‘risks and health consequences’ of not having visitors and restrictions to leaving the care home home.
This was his reply to a member of the public, Rachel from Derby, who said her mother had not been able to leave her care home for almost 14 months and is now taking anti-depressants after her condition deteriorated. Rachel said: ‘Please help us find a safe way for this to happen very soon.’
Mr Hancock replied: ‘We are working on it right now. I had a meeting on this yesterday to make sure that we can get the rules right so that people can safely leave a care home and come back without bringing coronavirus back into the home.
‘And especially now that vaccinations have taken place amongst residents – the vast, vast majority have now had two doses and amongst staff vaccination rates are rising as well – and also because the rates of coronavirus are so much lower in the community, so I hope that we can have some good news for you soon, Rachel.’
But he added: ‘You’ll understand given the history why it’s so important that we have protective rules for those who live in care homes. They are amongst the most vulnerable to Covid.’
England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam agreed the issue of care home isolation is ‘desperately important’ for people’s mental health. He added: ‘And it’s desperately important that we do restore that normality for people who live in residential care. But it has to be done carefully.’
Professor Van-Tam added that more data is needed to see if Covid-19 vaccinations work as well in the ‘extremely frail elderly as they do in the fit and younger adult’.
Last week, Labour MPs and the National Care Forum raised concerns about the quarantine rule – and also argued it could deter residents from voting in local elections on 6 May.
Liz Kendall MP urged the Government to ‘completely rethink’ the two-week quarantine rule, adding that care home residents were ‘not prisoners’. She continued: ‘We may have to look at legislation to enshrine the rights of care home residents’.