COVID-19 “has not gone away”, a care home provider and industry representative tells Sputnik, whilst noting that 467 people have died from the virus “in the week up to 20 November”, which is 42 more than the week prior.
The UK government has started to rollout a vaccine that it is hoped will bring the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to an eventual halt. Mike Padgham, of the Independent Care Homes Group, explains that it is hoped that the British government will follow through on its promise to ensure that care home residents and staff will be among the first to be offered the vaccine so as to help stem the spread of COVID-19. Mr Padgham also noted that as fatalities continue to rise it is essential that the government is able to reassure the public as to the safety and efficacy of the vaccine as well.
Sputnik: What is the situation regarding COVID-19 infections and deaths at UK care homes?
Mike Padgham: I would describe the situation as quite precarious at the moment. Death rates in care and nursing homes continue to rise, with latest figures showing that 467 people died from COVID-19 in the week up to 20th November – up from 425 the previous week.
There is always a time lag, so if death and infection rates across the country start to go down, they should follow suit in care and nursing homes too.
Given the vulnerable people we look after, there is a real need for continued vigilance. COVID-19 has not gone away, it is still with us and the vaccine isn’t available to us yet, so we aren’t out of the woods. All care providers – in care and nursing homes, people’s own homes, extra care housing and those looking after people with physical and mental disabilities, have to remain on their guard at this critical time.
Sputnik: Explain the ‘Catch-22’ that you’ve recently mentioned care providers are facing vis-à-vis COVID-19 tests.
Mike Padgham: Not for the first time, social care providers are finding themselves in Catch-22, no-win situations. For example, we want to be able to welcome visitors back in to care and nursing homes because they have been separated from their loved ones for nine months and that is very distressing and damaging for all concerned. But our priority must be keeping our residents and staff as safe from COVID-19 as we possibly can. Many providers have not got access to tests yet and so cannot begin the proper visiting the Government has promised families they can have. Even as we do get the testing kits, there is still some doubt as to whether we should use them. We would also like some clarity from the Government and from local authorities on this. Some doubts have been raised about the accuracy of the Lateral Flow Tests (LFT) the Government wants us to use.
Sputnik: Are care home residents and staff being given priority for the future rollout of vaccine?
Mike Padgham: Yes, we very much hope so and the Government has promised that. Whether that proves to be the case remains to be seen. Homes are starting to get access to the vaccine, but it is throwing up logistical uncertainties as to whether staff or even residents will have to travel to get their injection or whether we can have it delivered in homes.
Sputnik: Do you know what level of willingness there is among care home residents to be vaccinated?
Mike Padgham: I think there is a decent level of willingness amongst residents and amongst staff but there remain some staff who are somewhat hesitant or reluctant. There are, as usual in situations like this, a lot of scare stories being put out about the safety of the vaccine.
Sputnik: Is there anything which might either increase or decrease the willingness to be vaccinated?
Mike Padgham: We need to get across the message that the vaccine is safe, and that people put themselves in much greater danger by not having it than by having it. The Government needs to take the lead in communicating that.
Sputnik: Has the situation regarding family visits to care homes improved since you previously called for the rules to be relaxed?
Mike Padgham: We haven’t looked for rules to be relaxed but we are keen for safe visits to be able to take place. For that to happen we must be confident that the testing regime is effective and that we can safely let visitors in. We need clarification and reassurance over this. I think many providers will take a belt and braces approach – use the tests but also keep PPE, social distancing and even screens.