Requiring care home residents to isolate for two weeks after making outdoor visits turns them into ‘prisoners’ and could deter them from voting on 6 May, MPs have warned.
Care home residents have been allowed to take trips outside since 12 April – but only if they isolate for 14 days upon their return to reduce the chance of infecting other residents and staff with Covid-19.
However, at a Westminster Hall debate last Thursday, Labour MPs urged the Government to ‘completely rethink ‘the ‘very restrictive’ rule that makes residents ‘prisoners’ and could deter them ‘from exercising their democratic right to vote’ in the upcoming local elections on 6 May.
Helen Hayes MP accused the Government of making ‘no dedicated effort’ to encourage residents to vote by post – the deadline for postal votes for this May’s elections passed on 20 April – nor making them aware of the implications of the quarantine policy on their ability to vote.
A government spokesperson told Nursing in Practice people can apply for a proxy vote until 27 April and those isolating because of Covid-19 can obtain an emergency proxy vote up to 5pm on election day.
Liz Kendall MP also urged the Government to ‘completely rethink’ the two-week quarantine rule, adding that care home residents are ‘not prisoners’. She continued: ‘We may have to look at legislation to enshrine the rights of care home residents’.
Likewise, Barbara Keeley MP asked why ‘a traveller from Brazil or India must isolate for only 10 days when they arrive in this country’ and care home residents have to quarantine for longer.
She said: ‘Are we seriously saying that an older person on a visit, who sits outside for an hour or two with a family member who has tested negative, is more of a threat than someone coming from a country that is seeing a hundred times more Covid cases than the UK?’
When asked whether the Government would scrap the quarantine policy and instead introduce an approach based on testing, vaccination, social distancing and PPE, social care minister Helen Whately said she has asked ‘Public Health England to provide advice on how to make more visits possible’.
But the government spokesperson told Nursing in Practice that there had not yet been any changes to quarantine requirements. They added: ‘Any visit in or out of a care home brings some risk of infection and our priority must always be to manage to transmission and keep vulnerable residents safe.’
In a separate statement, National Care Forum chief executive Vic Rayner said: ‘Losing the right to vote in person is a national scandal’.
She added: ‘As soon as it became apparent that everyone would not be able to share full access to the voting options, then the elections should have been paused, or we should have found a way where the opportunities for all to vote were equalised.’