Express & Star comment: Government must support our care homes

Care homes were failed by the Government this spring. Of that, there is no question. Too many people who were infectious were sent into homes, to free up hospital beds. The results were devastating and to avoid a repeat, it is understandable that tougher restrictions have since been in place. We cannot allow Covid-19 to spread so quickly again.

Yet the human costs of keeping people safe is also huge. It has been heart-breaking to see loved ones separated from their families. Little wonder there are cases of depression, isolation and loneliness among those who live in care homes and their families. Seeing people separated from parents or spouses has been deeply troubling.

We must find a better solution to the ongoing need to self-isolate than people peering through windows or iron bars.

We appear to be making progress and Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said he hopes to be in a position to improve matters by Christmas. Rapid tests for visitors may be the key that unlocks the door on this most difficult element of the pandemic.

People up and down the country will hope this comes to pass. If this can be achieved without putting vulnerable people at risk, it will make this Christmas feel more special after what has been the most testing of years.

We must be balanced in our approach and focus on the importance of safety. Similarly, we must be fair-minded regarding the rules; we cannot on the one hand criticise the Government for being too lax and on the other criticise it for being too safety-conscious.

The development of drugs that provide immunity will lead to further, substantial improvements in the near future. The rapid rate at which tests can be conducted and processed has also put us in a much better place.

As we look ahead, we must find a way to restore dignity and social interaction for those who live in care homes. We must also reflect on the tremendous strains that are placed on staff in such premises as they try to keep people safe while also reflecting on the emotional challenge of not facilitating visits. Hard decisions are made on a daily basis as people miss out on moments that will never return.

While remaining risk-averse, the Government must show support, as well as warmth, compassion and empathy as it prioritises the needs of those in care homes. Having failed earlier this year, it is the least it can do.

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